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George Eliot. By Miss Blind. 
Emily Bronte. By Miss Robinson. 
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Mary Lamb. By Mrs. Gilchrist. 
Margaret Fuller. By Julia Ward Howe. 
Maria Edgeworth. By Miss Zimmern. 
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Madame Roland. By Mathilde Blind. 
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■'ocTr'y;,887 / 




3 ^ 

Copyright, 1887, 
By Roberts Brothers. 

University Press : 
John Wilson and Son, Cambridge. 


Unpublished correspondence — that delight of the 
eager biographer — is not to be had in the case of 
Madame de Stael, for, as is well known, the De 
Broglie family either destroyed or successfully hid 
all the papers which might have revealed any facts 
not already in possession of the world. 

The writer of the present brief memoir has, conse- 
quently, had to fall back upon the following well- 
known works : 

The Correspondance of the Abbe Galiani, of Mme. 
Du Deffand, of Rahel Varnhagen, and of Schiller ; 
the Memoirs of Marmontel, of Mme. D'Arblay, of 
Mme. de Remusat, of Mme. d'Abrante, of Bour- 
rienne, and of the Comte de Montlosier ; Ticknor's 
Letters ; Chateaubriand's Memoires d^ Outre Tombe; 
De Goncourt's Histoire de la SociHt Frangaise pend- 
ant la Rholution^ and Histoire de la Societe Frangaise 
pendant le Directoire; Lacretelle's Dix Annees d'E^p- 
reuve; Michelet's Le Directoire^ Le Dix-huit Bru- 
maire^ and Jusqu'ci Waterloo ; Le Salon de Madame 
JVecker, by Vicomte d'Haussonville j Studies of the 


Eighteenth Century in Italy, by Vernon Lee \ By- 
ron's Letters ; Benjamin Constant's Letters to Mme. 
Recamier ; Coppet and Weimar ; Les Correspondants 
de Joubert, by Paul Raynal ; Les Causeries du Lundi, 
and other studies by Ste. Beuve ; Droz' Histoire du 
Regne de Louis XVI. ; Villemain's Cours de Littkra- 
ture Frangaise ; the fragments from Constant's Jour- 
nals, recently published in the Revue Internationale ; 
Sismondi's jfournals and Letters; and sundry old 
articles in the Revue des Deux Mondes ; besides 
various other volumes, of which the list would be 

long and wearisome to detail. 



Chap. Page. 


II. — GERMAINE . . . ' . . 9 












RIAGE ..... 162 

XIII. — =EN GLAND AGAIN . . . . 18O 

XIV. — CLOSING SCENES . . . . I96 

XV.— HER WORKS .... 20/ 




'* My dear friend having the same tastes as 
myself, would certainly wish always for my chair, 
and, like his little daughter, would beat me to 
make me give it up to him. To keep peace be- 
tween our hearts, I send a chair for him also. 
The two are of suitable height and their light- 
ness renders them easy to carry. They are made 
of the most simple material, and were bought at 
the sale of Philemon and Baucis." 

Thus wrote Madame Geoffrin to Madame 
Necker when the intimacy between them had 
reached such a pitch as to warrant the introduc- 
tion into the Necker salons of the only sort of 
chair in which the little old lady cared to sit. 

The "dear friend" was M. Necker, and the 
" little daughter " of the house must then have 
been about four or five years old, for it was in 
the very year of her birth (1766) that Madame 



Geoff rin took her celebrated journey to Poland, 
and it was some little time after her return that 
she became intimate with Germaine Necker's 

They were still in the Rue de Clery. M. Neck- 
er's elevation to the Contrdle General was in the 
future and had probably not been foreseen ; it is 
possible that even the Eloge de Colbert, which be- 
trayed his desire for power, had not yet appeared ; 
nevertheless, he was already a great man. His 
controversy with the Abbe Morellet, on the sub- 
ject of the East India Company, had brought 
him very much into notice ; and, although his 
arguments in favor of that monopoly had not 
saved it from extinction, they had caused his 
name to be in everybody's mouth. 

His position as Minister for the Republic of 
Geneva gave him the entry to the Court of Ver- 
sailles, and brought him into contact with illus- 
trious personages, who otherwise might have 
disdained a mere wealthy foreigner, neither a 
noble nor a Catholic. His well-filled purse com- 
pleted his popularity, for it was not seldom at the 
service of abject place-hunters and needy literati. 
Moreover, he had been fortunate in his choice of 
a wife. 

By the time that the King of Poland's bonne 
maman wrote that little note to Madame Necker, 
the wife of the Genevese banker had founded a 


salon as brilliant and crowded as Madame Geoff- 
rin's own. She had achieved this in a few years, 
whereas Madame Geoffrin for the same task, and 
in spite of her wealth and generosity, had re- 
quired a quarter of a century. 

But Madame Necker, besides being young, 
rich and handsome, was bitten with the prevail- 
ing craze for literature, could listen unwearedly 
for hours to the most Xdhox^di portraits and eloges, 
and, although herself the purest and most austere 
of women, would open her salon to any repro- 
bate, provided only he were witty. 

Madame Necker, first known to us as Suzanne 
Curchod, was the daughter of a Swiss pastor, and 
saw the light in the Presbytery of Grassier in the 
Pays de Vaud. The simple white house, with its 
green shutters, is still to be seen, separated from 
the road by a little garden planted with fruit 
trees. The Curchods were an ancient and 
respectable family whom Madame Necker (it was 
one of her weaknesses) would fain have proved 
entitled to patents of nobility. Some Curchods 
or Curchodis are found mentioned in old chroni- 
cles as fighting beneath the banners of Savoy, 
and it was from these that Madame Necker 
sought vainly to trace her descent. She held a 
secret consultation for this cherished object with 
the Sieur Cherin, genealogist to the King ; but 
his decision disappointed her. Chagrined, but 


not convinced — for her opinions were not easily 
shaken — she carried home the precious papers 
and locked them up without erasing the endorse- 
ment, Titres de noblesse de la famille Curchod, 
which she had written with her own hand. 

M. Curchod took pains to give his only daugh- 
ter an unusually thorough and liberal education. 
She knew Latin and a little Greek, " swept with 
extreme flounce the circle of the sciences," and 
was accomplished enough in every way to attract 
the admiration, very often even the love, of sun- 
dry grave and learned personages. 

Mixed with her severe charm there must have 
been some coquetry, for at a very early age she 
began making conquests among the young min- 
isters who arrived on Sundays at Grassier, osten- 
sibly to assist M. Gurchod in his duties ; and 
a voluminous correspondence, somewhat high- 
flown, as was the fashion of the day, is extant, to 
prove that Suzanne possessed the art of keeping 
her numerous admirers simultaneously well in 
hand. Verses, occasionally slightly Voltairian 
in tone, were also addressed to her ; and later in 
life Madame Necker reproached herself for her 
placid acceptance of the homage thus expressed, 
and owned that had she understood it better she 
would have liked it less. 

Suzanne's parents, proud, no doubt, of their 
daughter's talents and accomplishments, took her 


after a while to Lausanne. That pleasant city, 
since giving up its own political ideals and falling 
under the sway of Berne, had lapsed into easy- 
going, intellectual ways, and even professed a dis- 
creet and modified form of Voltairianism. Ever 
•since the author of the " Henriade" had dazzled 
it with his presence, it had been on the look-out 
for illustrious personalities, and welcomed all for- 
eigners who showed any promise of literary dis- 

What with her pretensions to be a hel-espritt 
her youth and beauty, Mademoiselle Curchod 
captivated the town at once, and very soon had the 
proud joy of founding an Academie de la Poud- 
Here, and being elected to preside over it under 
the fantastic name of Themire. The members 
of this intellectual society were of both sexes 
and all young. Their duties consisted in writing 
portraits of one another, and essays or odes on 
subjects in general. Combined with these pro- 
found pursuits there seems to have been a good 
deal of flirtation, and, doubtless, both the schol- 
asticism and the sentiment were equally to Su- 
zanne Curchod's taste. 

During her stay in Lausanne she fascinated 
Gibbon, and, for the first time in her career of 
conquest, fell in love herself. So profound was 
her passion — or so profound, in her self-torment- 
ing way, did she imagine it to be — that she 


remained constant to her engagement during the 
four years of Gibbon's absence in England, and 
wrote him agitated, abject letters of reproach, 
when he, alleging his father's invincible objec- 
tions, broke off the engagement. Her devoted 
friend, Moulton, who appears to have loved her 
all his life, was so touched by her despair, that, 
with Suzanne's own consent, he sought the me- 
diation of Rousseau in order to bring the recre- 
ant lover back to his allegiance. But the attempt 
was vain. Gibbon showed himself as heartless as 
Mademoiselle Curchod had proved indulgent, and 
when the lady, as a last resource, proposed that 
they should at least remain friends, he declined 
the amiable offer as being ** dangerous for both." 
Nevertheless, when they met again in Paris, some 
years later. Mademoiselle Curchod, then married, 
welcomed Gibbon with kindness, and even wrote 
him notes containing, here and there, allusions 
to the past. For the age was evidently senti- 
mental, and to cherish memories of vanished joys, 
and make passing, pathetic reference to them, 
was a luxury of which Madame Necker would 
have been the last to deprive herself. 

On the death of her parents, Suzanne found 
herself obliged to seek for a situation as gover- 
ness, or companion. All her life, fortunate in 
making and keeping the most devoted friends, 
she found plenty anxious to help her in carrying 


out her plans. Among her sincerest admirers 
was the charming Duchess d'Enville, whose 
sweetness, grace, and na'if enthusiasm for Swit- 
zerland (as a kind of romantic republic, all shep- 
herds and shepherdesses, toy-chalets, natural 
sentiments and stage liberty) were so character- 
istic of the age, and so admiringly celebrated in 
Bonstetten's letters. It was, in all probability, 
through her introduction at Geneva that Suzanne 
became acquainted with Madame de Vermenoux, 
a rich Parisian widow, who fell immediately under 
the young orphan's charm, and, engaging her as 
a companion, took her back to Paris. In that 
intellectual centre — the promised land of all her 
thoughts — Suzanne speedily came into contact 
with several interesting people, among others the 
delightful Bonstetten, then still young in years, 
destined to be always young in heart, and whom, 
in the course of this work, we shall often see 
among the band of fervent admirers surrounding 
Madame de Stael. 

Another frequent visitor at Madame de Ver- 
menoux's house was M. Necker, at that time a 
partner in Thellusson's bank, and already pos- 
sessed of ample means. He was a rejected suitor 
of the hostess, but continued on very good terms 
with her, and perhaps was expected to propose 
a second time. If such were the widow's ideas, 
they were doomed to disappointment ; for very 


soon after Necker's introduction to Suzanne he 
made a transfer of his affections to her. He left, 
however, for Geneva, without declaring his sen- 
timents ; and Mademoiselle Curchod, once again 
in love, and once again in despair, poured out 
her feelings in a long letter to Moulton. That 
ever faithful friend did his best to bring things 
to a happy termination, by taking care that M. 
Necker, during his sojourn in Geneva, should 
hear nothing but praise of Suzanne. The device, 
if needed, was most successful ; for the banker 
returned to Paris with his mind made up. He 
proposed without loss of time, and it is, perhaps, 
not too much to say, that Mademoiselle Curchod 
jumped into his arms. 

All the friends of the bride elect were delight- 
ed, and even Madame de Vermenoux proclaimed 
her pleasure at the turn which affairs had taken. 
Some little subsequent coolness, however, she 
must have manifested, for the date fixed- for the 
wedding was kept a secret from her. When the 
day dawned, Suzanne stole out quietly and met 
M. Necker at the church door. 

In what form the news was broken to the widow 
is not known ; but any annoyance she may have 
felt was not of long duration, for in after years 
we find Madame de Vermenoux a frequent guest 
of the Neckers, and the little daughter, born on 
the 22nd April, 1766, was named Germaine after 



When Germaine was about six years old, M. 
Necker retired from the bank, and devoted him- 
self to the study of administrative questions. 
This was in preparation for the career to which 
he felt himself called. For years past his wealth 
had come frequently to the aid of a spendthrift 
Government and an exhausted exchequer ; and it 
was natural that he should seek his reward in 
power. In his Eloge de Colbert, published in 
1773, he was at no pains to conceal that he was 
thinking of himself when drawing the portrait of 
an ideal Minister of Finance ; and some annoy- 
ance at Turgot's appointment is thought to have 
added force to his attacks on the latter's theories 
concerning free trade in corn. 

Madame Necker, profiting by her husband's 
growing importance, quickly attained the sum- 
mit of her ambition in becoming the presiding 
genius of a salon thronged with intellectual celeb- 
rities. Buffon and Thomas were her most trust- 
ed friends, but, austere though she was, she did 



not disdain to admit to a certain intimacy men 
like Marmontel, the Abbe Galiani, St. Lambert, 
and Diderot. They all flattered her outrageously 
to her face, while some of them, Marmontel espe- 
cially, sneered at her behind her back. All made 
love to her, and, misled by the studied warmth 
of pompous eloquence with which she proclaimed 
her delight in their society, they not rarely per- 
suaded themselves that they had added her to 
the list of their conquests, and were chagrined 
and not a little disgusted later to discover that 
the only man she cared for was her husband. 
Indeed, she bored everybody with praise of M. 
Necker, composing and reading aloud in her ovm 
salon a preposterous /^r/ra:/^ of him, in which she 
compared him to most things in heaven and 
earth and the waters under the earth, from an 
angel to a polypus. Her rigidity, her self -con- 
sciousness, her want of charm, and absence of 
humor, were a fruitful theme of ridicule to the 
witty and heartless parasites who crowded her 
drawing-rooms and made raids on her husband's 
purse. And yet such was the native force of 
goodness in her that, sooner or later, in every 
instance, detraction turned to praise. The bit- 
ter Madame de Genlis, who detested the Neck- 
ers, and ridiculed them unsparingly, admits that 
the wife was a model of virtue ; and Diderot paid 
her the greatest compliment which she, perhaps, 

/ GERMAINE. 1 1 

ever received, when declaring that had he known 
her sooner, much that he had written would never 
have seen the light. 

Grimm was another frequenter of the Necker 
salons ; and the mistress of the house being no 
less prodigal of gracious encouragement towards 
him than towards everybody else, he also event- 
ually declared his sentiments of friendship and 
admiration, with as much warmth as his manners 
allowed of. Like Voltaire, he called her " Hy- 
patie " ; and testified the genuineness of his re- 
gard by scolding her about her religious opinions. 
Needless to say these were not infidel, but they 
were, in Grimm's opinion, disastrously illogical ; 
and, his fine taste in such matters being offended, 
he expressed his displeasure on one occasion in 
no measured terms. Madame Necker retorted, 
for she loved a discussion too fervently ever to 
be meek ; but apparently Grimm was too much 
for her. Either his arguments were irrefragable, 
or his manner was irritating ; the result was that 
Madame Necker — to the polite consternation of 
her numerous guests — dissolved into tears. 

Humihated, on reflection, at having made such 
a scene, with characteristic ardor, she seized the 
opportunity to write Grimm a high-flown apol- 
ogy ; and an interchange of letters followed in 
which the philosopher compared the lady to 
Venus completed by Minerva, and Madame 


Necker ransacked the universe for metaphors 
wherewith to express her admiration of the gen- 
tleman's sensibility. 

As the Neckers spent their summer at St. 
Ouen — not the historic Chateau associated with 
Louis XVI I L, but another in the neighborhood, 
and of the same name — the proximity to Paris 
enabled them to continue unbroken their series 
of dinners, suppers and receptions, twice a week. 

Many of the guests were notable personages, 
and most of them types which vanished forever 
a few years later — engulphed by the storm-wave 
of the Revolution. There was the Abbe Morel- 
let, clear-headed, gravely ironical, with as much 
tact in concealing as in displaying the range of 
his knowledge and the depth of his insight ; St. 
Lambert, a little cold, but full of exquisite polite- 
ness, supremely elegant in expression, and, with- 
out being lively himself, possessed of the delicate 
art of never quenching liveliness in others ; 
D'Alembert, charming, if frigid, and destined 
soon to be an object of sentimental interest, be- 
cause of his inconsolable grief for Mile. L'Espi- 
nasse ; the Abbe Raynal, doubtless enchanted to 
pour into Madame Necker's respectful ears the 
floods of eloquence for which Frederick the Great 
laughed at him ; these, with Marmontel and 
Thomas, were almost always present. 

A few years earlier the Abbe Galiani, delight- 


ful and incorrigible, would also have been seen. 
This extraordinary little man, political econo- 
mist, archaeologist, mineralogist, diplomatist and 
pulcinello, was one of Madame Necker's pro- 
fessed adorers. Everybody liked and admired 
him ; Diderot described him as '* a treasure on a 
rainy day"; Marmontel as " the prettiest little 
harlequin," with "the head of Macchiavelli " ; 
while, for Madame Geoffrin, he was her petite 
chose. After so much praise, and from such peo- 
ple, Madame Necker must certainly have accepted 
him unconditionally ; but it would be interesting 
to know exactly with what air she listened to his 
impassioned declarations. When eventually re- 
stored to his native land — or, as he expressed it, 
exiled from Paris — he wrote her impudent and 
characteristic epistles, in which reproaches at 
her virtue, intimate interrogations regarding her 
health, and envy of M. Necker's happiness, ming- 
led with inquiries after everybody in the beloved 
capital, and wails of inconsolable grief at his own 
departure. " Quel desert que cinquante mille Na- 
politains!'' he exclaims. 

Madame Du Deffand was also for a time an 
intimate guest at the Neckers'. The friendship 
did not last long. The marquise, by this time 
infinitely weary of men and things, appears soon 
to have tired of Madame Necker's declamations 
and M. Necker's superiority. Her final judgment 


on the wife was very severe, rather ill-tempered, 
and therefore unjust. Madame Necker was, she 
says, ** stiff and frigid, full of self-consciousness, 
but an upright woman." Her liking for the hus- 
band held out longer, but finally succumbed to 
the discovery that, while very intelligent, he 
failed to elicit wit from others. " One felt one- 
self more stupid in his company than when with 
other people or alone." 

, There is no trace of any variation in the 
friendship between Madame Necker and Mad- 
ame Geoffrin. Perhaps the latter, with her ha- 
bitual gentle ** Voildy qui est bienj' called her 
young friend to order, and early repressed the 
emphatic praises which could not but have wea- 
ried her. 

We are told that she hated exaggeration in 
everything ; and how could Madame Necker's 
heavy flattery have found favor in her eyes } 
Her delicate savoir-vivrey too, that preternat- 
urally subtle sense which supplied the place in 
her of brilliancy and learning and early educa- 
tion, must have been vexed at Madame Necker's 
innocent but everlasting pedantry. We can 
fancy, however, that she managed, in her imper- 
ceptible, noiseless way, to elude all these dis- 
turbing manifestations ; and then she was doubt- 
less pleased at Madame Necker's good-humored 
patience with her scoldings. All Madame Geof- 


frin's friends, as we know, had to submit to be 
scolded ; but probably few showed under the 
infliction the magnanimity of Madame Necker, 
who must have possessed all the power of sub- 
mission peculiar to self-questioning souls. The 
calm old lady, ensconced in her own peculiar 
chair, whether in Paris or at St. Ouen, in the 
midst of the sparkling society to which she had 
perseveringly fought her way, was disturbed in 
her serenity by no presage of misfortune. 

In point of reputation the most illustrious, and 
in point of romantic ardor the most fervent, of 
all Madame Necker's friends, was Buffon. He 
wrote her some eighty letters full of fervid flat- 
tery and genuine, almost passionate affection, to 
which she responded in the terms of adulation 
that the old man still held dear. Such incense 
had once been offered to him in nauseating abun- 
dance ; now that he was old and lonely it had 
diminished, and this fact, joined to his unques- 
tionable admiration for Madame Necker, made 
him all the more easily intoxicated by her praise. 
Mixed with her high esteem for his genius was a 
womanly compassion for his bodily sufferings 
that rendered the tie uniting their two minds a 
very sweet and charming one. On hearing that 
his end was near, she hastened to Montbard, 
where he was residing, and established herself by 
his bedside, remaining there five days, and cour- 


ageously soothing the paroxysms of pain that it 
tortured her own sensitive nature to see. 

Perhaps her strong and unconcealed desire that 
the philosopher should make a Christian end, lent 
her fortitude to continue the self-imposed task. 
There is no proof that she directly influenced 
him in that final declaration of faith by which he 
scandalised a free-thinking community ; but she 
had often discussed religious questions with him, 
and deplored his want of a definite creed ; conse- 
quently, it is possible that her mere presence 
may have had some effect upon him at the last. 

On the brink of the irrevocable, even the pride 
of controversy may come to be a little thing ; and 
Buffon's wearied spirit perhaps recoiled from fur- 
ther speculation on the eternal problem of futu- 
rity. And to be at one, in that supreme moment, 
with the pitying woman who had come to solace 
his final agony, may have weighed with him above 
the praise and blame over which the grave was 
to triumph forever. 

Madame Necker delighted in making herself 
miserable, and the melancholia natural to him 
probably caused Thomas to be the most thor- 
oughly congenial to her of all her friends. The 
author of the Petreide and the foe of the Ency- 
clopaedists, he enjoyed during his life a celebrity 
which posterity has not confirmed. He was the 
originator of the unhappy style of writing in 


which Madame Necker so delighted that she 
modelled her own upon it. For the rest, he was 
a man of extremely austere and simple life, as 
well as of very honest character. Passion was 
unknown to him, unless, indeed, the profound 
and sentimental esteem which he felt for Madame 
Necker was of a nature under more favorable 
treatment to have developed into love. If so, 
she found the way in his case, as in all, to restrain 
his feelings within platonic bounds, and indulged 
him. chiefly with affecting promises not to forget 
him when she should be translated to heaven. 

Madame Necker may be said to have touched 
the zenith of social distinction the day on which 
the Marechale de Luxembourg entered her salon. 
This charming old lady and exquisite grande 
dame, the arbiter of politeness and fine manners, 
was felicitously and untranslatably described by 
Madame du Deffand, in one delightful phrase, as 
'' Chatte Rose!'' Upon all those who met her 
at this period (when she was already nearly 
seventy), she seems to have produced the same 
impression of softness and elegance, of fine mal- 
ice and caressing, irresistible ways. 

Madame de Souza — that sweet little woman 
round whose name the perfume of her own roses 
still seems to cling — -drew a portrait of the Mare- 
chale in her novel Eugenie de Rotkelin, under 
the name of the Marechale de'Estouteville ; nor 



did she, as Ste. Beuve tells us, forget to intro- 
duce, by way of contrast, in the person of Mad- 
ame de Rieny, the pretty and winning Duchess 
de Lauzun, grand-niece of the Marechale, and 
another flower of Madame Necker's salon. 

This little Duchess, ''joli petit oiseau a Vair 
effarouche'' (to quote Madame c^u Deffand once 
again), was so devoted an admirer of M. Necker, 
that, hearing somebody in the Tuileries Gar. 
dens blame him, she slapped the speaker's face. 
Apart from this one outburst, which saves her 
from seeming too meek, she flits shadowy, sweet 
and pathetic, across the pages of her contempo- 
raries. The record of her life, as we know it, is 
brief and touching. She kept herself unspotted 
from a most depraved world ; loved a very un- 
worthy husband and died, during the Terror, on 
the scaffold. 

Another friend, and apparently a very sincere 
one, of Madame Necker, was Madame d'Houde- 
tot. Madame Necker seems to have accepted 
that interesting woman just as she was, including 
her relations with St. Lambert, whom the letters 
exchanged between the two ladies mention quite 
naturally. The affection which she felt for the 
mother was extended by Madame D'Houdetot to 
the little daughter, and there are letters of hers 
extant describing visits which she had paid to 


Germaine, while Madame Necker was at Spa or 
Mont Dore for her health. 

They were written to relieve the natural pain 
of absence on the parents' part, and are full of 
praises of the child, of her engaging ways, her 
air of health, and her magnificent eyes. 



In the brilliant world in which she awoke, Ger- 
maine very soon found her place. It is a very 
familiar little picture that which we have of her, 
seated on a low stool beside her mother at the 
receptions, and fixing on one speaker after anoth- 
er her great, astonished eyes. 

Soon, very soon, she began to join in the con- 
versation herself, and by the time she was ten or 
eleven years old she had grown into a person 
whose opinion was quite seriously consulted. 
Some of the friends of the house, Marmontel, 
Raynal and others, enchanted to have a new 
shrine in the same temple at which to worship, 
talked to her, wrote verses to her, and laid at her 
young feet some of the homage up to then exclu- 
sively devoted to Madame Necker. 

That lady began by being enchanted at Ger- 
maine's amazing powers, and set to work to edu- 
cate her with characteristic thoroughness and 
pedantry. Everything that was strongest in her, 
family pride, the sense of maternal authority, the 



love of personal influence, the passion for train- 
ing, seemed to find their opportunity in the sur- 
prising daughter whom Heaven had given her. 
She drove the child to study with unrelenting 
ardor, teaching her things beyond her age, and 
encouraging her at the same time further to exer- 
cise her intelligence by listening to conversations 
on all sorts of subjects. The consequence was 
that at eleven Germaine's conversational powers 
were already stupendous. On being introduced 
to a child of her own age, a little Mademoiselle 
Hiiber, who was her cousin, she amazed her new 
acquaintance by the questions she put to her. 
She asked what were her favorite lessons ; if she 
knew any foreign languages ; if she often went 
to the theatre. The little cousin confessing to 
having profited but rarely by such an amusement, 
Germaine was horror-stricken, but promised that 
henceforward the deficiency should be remedied, 
adding that on their return from the theatre they 
should both proceed to write down the subject 
of the pieces performed, with suitable reflections ; 
that being, she said, her own habit. In the even- 
ing of this first day's acquaintance. Mademoiselle 
Hiiber, already sufficiently awe-struck, one must 
think, was further a witness to the attention paid 
to Germaine by her mother's most distinguished 

" Everybody addressed her with a compliment 


or a pleasantry. She answered everything with 
ease and grace. . . . The cleverest men were 
those who took most pleasure in making her talk. 
They asked what she was reading, recommended 
new books to her and . . . talked to her of what 
she knew, or of what she had yet to learn." 

From her tenderest years Germaine wrote por- 
traits and eloges. At fifteen she made extracts 
from the Esprit de Lois, with annotations, and 
about the same time the Abbe Raynal was very 
anxious that she should contribute to his great 
work an article on the Revolution of the Edict 
of Nantes. 

But before this, when she was only twelve, the 
effects of such premature training had made 
themselves visible. Her feelings had been as 
unnaturally developed as her mind. Already 
that rich, abundant nature, so impetuous, gener- 
ous, and fervid, which was at once the highest 
gift and deepest curse, had begun to reveal itself 
in an exaggerated sensibility. Praise of her par- 
ents moved her to tears ; for the little cousin she 
had an affection amounting to passion ; and the 
mere sight of celebrated people gave her palpita- 
tion of the heart. She did not care to be amused. 
What pleased her best was what pained her most, 
and her imagination was fed upon the " Clarissa' 
Harlowe " school of novels. 

By degrees her health began to fail, and at 


fourteen the collapse was so complete as to cause 
the most serious alarm. Tronchin was consult- 
ed, and prescribed absolute rest from study. 
This was a cruel blow to Madame Necker. A 
nature allowed to develop spontaneously, a mind 
virgin of the pruning-hook, were objects of as 
much horror to her as if they had been forbid- 
den by Heaven. That her daughter, just at the 
final moment, when what was doubtless the mere 
preliminary course of study had been traversed, 
should be released from bondage and abandoned 
to her own impetuosity, was well-nigh insupport- 
able. She had no alternative but to resign her- 
self, and therefore, silently and coldly, as was her 
wont, she accepted the situation. Nevertheless, 
she was neither reconciled to it, nor felt the same 
interest in Germaine again. Years afterwards, 
the bitterness that she had hoarded in her soul 
betrayed itself in one little phrase. Madame 
Necker de Sausanne was congratulating her 
on her daughter's astonishing powers. '' She is 
nothing," said Madame Necker, coldly, " nothing 
to that which I would have made her." 

Despatched from Paris to the pure air of St. 
Ouen, and ordered to do nothing but enjoy her- 
self, the young girl quickly recovered her vivac- 
ity, and developed a charming joyousness. This 
new mood of hers, while gradually estranging her 
from her mother, drew her closer to her father. 


M, Necker, who detested literary women, had 
looked with but scanty favor on his daughter's 
passion for writing, and it is probable that, as 
long as she was exclusively under Madame Neck- 
er's rule, he did not feel for her more than the 
commonplace sort of affection which a busy and 
serious-minded father bestows on a little girl. 

During her childhood Germaine herself lav- 
ished all her warmest affection on her mother, 
being apparently drawn to her by the subtle 
attraction which a very deep and reserved nature 
exercises on an excitable one. Madame Necker, 
pale, subdued in manner, restrained in gesture, 
surrounded with respectful adorers, revered by 
her husband, and flattered by her friends, seems 
to have filled her observant, imaginative little 
daughter with a feeling bordering on awe. Very 
sensitive, yet very submissive, and quite incapa- 
ble of resentment, Germaine threw herself with 
characteristic passionate ardor into the task of 
winning her mother's praise. How compla- 
cently Madame Necker must have accepted the 
homage implied in these efforts, it is easy to 
imagine. A little contempt for the child's im- 
petuosity helped to give her the firmness neces- 
sary for moulding, according to her own notions, 
the nature so plastic, yet so vital, thus placed 
within her grasp. A good, nay, a noble woman, 
yet essentially a self-righteous one, she could 


comprehend perfection in nothing that did not, 
to a certain degree, resemble herself. Her ideas, 
her principles, her will, were, she conceived, to 
shape and fashion, restrain and re-create, this 
thing of fire and intellect, this creature all spirit, 
instinct and insight, that she named her child. 
Germaine, predestined all her life to struggle, 
to consume herself to ashes — like the Arabian 
princess who fought with the djin7t — succumbed 
for the time to her mother's will, by the annihila- 
tion of everything that was inalienably herself. 
The spell lasted as long as the tyranny which had 
created it ; but once freed from the thraldom, 
wandering with her young cousin through the 
avenues of St. Duen, drinking in the freshness 
of the shadowy glades, and acting innocent little 
dramas, Germaine became more natural and, in 
her mother's eyes, more commonplace. Madame 
Necker lost interest in her, drew frigidly away 
from her, and even began to feel some jealousy 
of the new-born affection between the father and 

When Germaine was fifteen, M. Necker fell 
from power. A few months previously he had 
published his Compte Rendu, and roused the 
enthusiasm of France. He had been the idol of 
the hour, and his name was in everybody's mouth. 
From all sides, from nobles and bourgeois alike, 
letters of praise and congratulation poured in 


upon him. Among these was an anonymous 
epistle, written by Germaine, and immediately 
recognized by her father, who knew the author's 

She was transported with joy and triumph, and 
probably understood her father's achievements 
better than two-thirds of the people who applaud- 
ed them. For she was endowed with a marvellous 
quickness and completeness of comprehension, 
and, where she loved, her sympathy was flawless. 
She was always willing to welcome and adopt the 
thought of another, and never seemed to guess 
how much of force and brilliancy it owed to the 
illuminating power of her own vivid intellect. 

On M. Necker's retirement from the Ministry 
of Finance he came to St. Ouen, followed in his 
retreat by the pity and praise of the best and 
brightest minds of France. His daughter, seeing 
more of him than ever, now, in the greater leis- 
ure which he enjoyed, and regarding him as the 
heroic victim of an infamous political cabal, soon 
conceived for him an affection that amounted to 
idolatry. On his side he was enchanted with her 
humorous gayety, and lent himself to her playful- 
ness in the not rare moments when Germaine's 
small sum of years got the better of her large 
amount of intelligence. 

One day Madame Necker had been called from 
the dining-room, during meal time, on some 


domestic or other business. Returning unex- 
pectedly, she heard a good deal of noise, and, 
opening the door, stood transfixed with amaze- 
ment on seeing her husband and daughter caper- 
ing about, with their table-napkins twisted round 
their heads like turbans. Both culprits looked 
rather ashamed of themselves when detected, and 
their spirits fell to zero beneath the lady's frozen 

The Neckers, in spite of the ex-minister's so- 
called "disgrace," continued surrounded with 
friends, so that from fifteen to twenty, at which 
latter age she married, Germaine's days were one 
long intellectual triumph. 

Her portraits read aloud to the guests, were 
eagerly received and enthusiastically applauded. 
She wrote one of her father, in competition with 
her mother; but when Monsieur Necker was 
appealed to on the respective merits of the two 
compositions, he wisely declined to pronounce 
any opinion. His daughter, however, divined his 
thoughts : " He admires Mamma's portrait," she 
said, *• but mine flatters him more." 

Her own merits inspired the wits surrounding 
her in their turn. A portrait by Guibert de- 
scribed her as a priestess of Apollo, with dark 
eyes illumined by genius, black, floating curls, 
and marked features, expressive of a destiny su- 
perior to that of most women. This was an or- 


namental way of saying that Germaine was not 
beautiful. She was, in fact, very plain, strangely 
so, considering that she had magnificent eyes, 
fine shoulders and arms, and abundant hair. 
What spoilt her was the total want of grace. 
When talking, she was much too prodigal of 
grimace and gesture, and, if eloquent and con- 
vincing, was also overpowering. 

She felt too much on every subject, and car- 
ried other people's small stream of platitudes 
along in the rushing tide of her own emotions, 
till her hearers were left exhausted and admiring, 
but also a little resentful. She disconcerted the 
very persons whom she most revered by only 
pausing long enough in her talk to grasp their 
meaning, and feed her own thought with it till 
that glowed more consumingly than ever, while 
all the time what she felt, what they felt, and what 
she imagined that they meant to say was pro- 
claimed in loud, harsh accents, most trying to 
sensitive nerves. 

All this time she was busily writing, and her 
father, who nicknamed her Mademoiselle de Ste. 
Ecritoire, could not correct the tendency, even 
by his unceasing raillery. In a comedy entitled 
Sophie, ou les Sentiments Secrets, she scandalized 
Madame Necker, by selecting for a subject the 
struggles of a young orphan against the passion 
inspired in her by her guardian, a married man. 


To this period belong also Ja7ie Grey and Mont- 
morency, both tragedies, and various novelettes. 

When Germaine was nearing twenty, the ques- 
tion of her marriage came under discussion ; 
and serious consideration was then, for the first 
time, accorded to a suitor whom her large fortune 
had long attracted. 

This was the Baron de Stael Holstein, Secre- 
tary to the Swedish Embassy. He seems to 
have been one of the elegant and amiable diplo- 
matists whom the Courts of Europe in those days 
turned out by the score. He had wit and good 
manners, as he had also the golden key of the 
Court Chamberlain ; otherwise, his personality 
was insignificant in the extreme. 

He was fortunate, however, in serving under a 
very popular ambassador, the Count de Creutz ; 
and in representing a king who, both for political 
and personal reasons, was anxious to keep on 
good terms with France. Gustavus HI. of Swe- 
den adored Paris, and was in continual corre- 
spondence with Madame de la Mark, Madame 
d'Egmont, Madame de Boufflers, and anybody 
who would keep him conversant with the gossip 
of the Tuileries and Versailles. The Count de 
Creutz having the intention of shortly retiring, it 
was understood that the Baron de Stael Holstein 
was to be his successor. That gentleman, who 
comprehended his own interests, and was head- 


over-ears in debt, lost no opportunity of persuad- 
ing the Swedish King's trio of witty correspon- 
dents, who in their turn were careful to impress 
on Gustavus, as well as on Louis XVI. and his 
Queen, that the next Swedish ambassador must 
be endowed with a splendid fortune. 

A grand marriage was, of course, to be the 
means of achieving this ; and Mademoiselle Ger- 
maine Necker, an heiress and a Protestant, was 
fixed upon for the bride. 

The delicate negotiations lasted for some con- 
siderable time, during which period the prize the 
Baron sought was disputed by two formidable 
rivals — William Pitt and Prince George Augus- 
tus of Mecklenburg, brother of the reigning 
Duke. Madame Necker warmly supported Pitt's 
suit, and showed great displeasure at being una- 
ble to overcome her daughter's obstinate aversion 
to it. Seeing how distinguished the Englishman 
already was, and how brilliant his future career 
promised to be, one wonders a little at Germaine's 
rejection of him. Probably the secret of her de- 
termination lay in the passionate adoration which 
she had now begun to feel for her father, on 
whom — as all his friends and partisans assured 
her — the eyes of misery-stricken France were 
fixed as on a savior. 

The idea of quitting France in such a crisis, 
at the dawn, so to speak, of her father's apotheo- 


sis, would naturally be intensely repugnant to 
her ; and possibly for that very reason Madame 
Necker, always a little jealous of the sympathy 
between her husband and her daughter, warmly 
advocated Pitt's claims. A painful coldness en- 
sued between mother and daughter, and lasted 
until the former happened to fall dangerously ill. 
Then Germaine's feelings underwent a revulsion 
of passionate tenderness ; and in the touching 
reconciliation which ensued between parent and 
child, Mr, Pitt and his suit were forgotten. 

Prince George Augustus of Mecklenburg was 
even less fortunate, being refused by both Mon- 
sieur and Madame Necker, with a promptitude 
which he fully deserved. For he had nothing to 
recommend him but his conspicuous position, 
and had very impudently avowed that he sought 
Mademoiselle Necker 's hand only for the sake of 
her enormous dower. 

The ground being thus cleared for Madame de 
BoufHer's protege, that energetic lady set to work 
to obtain from Gustavus a promise not to remove 
the Baron, now ambassador, from France for a 
specified long term of years. 

This assurance that they would not be parted 
from their daughter having been given to the 
Neckers, and formally embodied in a clause of 
the marriage settlement, the document was 
signed by the King and Queen of France, and 


several other illustrious personages, and the wed- 
ding celebrated on the 14th January, I7g6. 

The first few days after her marriage, Madame 
de Stael, according to the custom of the time, 
passed under her father's roof ; and among her 
letters is a sweet and affectionate one, which she 
addressed to her mother on the last day of her 
sojourn with her parents. 

"Perhaps I have not always acted rightly 
towards you. Mamma," she writes. "At this 
moment, as in that of death, all my deeds are 
present to my mind, and I fear that I may not 
leave in you the regret that I desire. But deign 
to believe that the phantoms of imagination have 
often fascinated my eyes, and often come between 
you and me so as to render me unrecognizable. 
But the very depth of my tenderness makes me 
feel at this moment that it has always been the 
same. It is part of my life, and I am entirely 
shaken and unhinged in this hour of separation 
from you. To-night .... I shall not have in 
my house the angel that guaranteed it from thun- 
der and fire. I shall not have her who would 
protect me if I were dying, and would enfold me, 
before God, with the rays of her sublime soul. I 
shall not have at every moment news of your 
health. I foresee regrets at every instant. . . . 
I pray that I may be worthy of you. Happiness 
may come later, at intervals or never. The end 


of life terminates everything, and you are so sure 
that there is another life as to leave no doubt 

in my heart Accept, Mamma, my dear 

Mamma, my profound respect and boundless ten- 

Perhaps when Madame Necker read this letter 
she felt in part consoled for the real or fancied 
pain which her brilliant and unaccountable daugh- 
ter had given her. 

And in spite of passing dissensions with her 
mother, Germaine's twenty years of girlhood had 
been essentially happy, for they had been ten- 
derly and watchfully sheltered from blight or 


necker's short-lived triumph. 

Some spiteful ridicule awaited the young am- 
bassadress on her first entrance into official life, 
and, strangely enough, among these detractors 
was Madame de Boufflers herself, who wrote to 
Gustavus III. : " She has been virtuously brought 
up, but has no knowledge of the world or its 
usages . . . and has a degree of assurance that 
I never saw equalled at her age, or in any posi- 
tion. If she were less spoilt by the incense 
offered up to her, I should have tried to give her 
a little advice." Another courtier's soul was 
vexed because Madame de Stael, when presented 
on her marriage, tore her flounce, and thus spoilt 
her third curtsey. As much scandal was caused 
by this gaucherie as if it had been some newly- 
invented sin ; but the delinquent herself, when 
the heinousness of her conduct was communi- 
cated to her, simply laughed. She could, indeed, 
afford to despise all such censure, for, if too 
obstreperously intellectual and ardent for artifi- 
cial circles, she soon attained to immense influ- 


ence among all the thinking and quasi-thinking 
minds of France. 

Politics were now beginning to be the one 
absorbing subject whose paramount importance 
dwarfed every other; and Madame de Stael, 
always in the vanguard of ideas, threw herself 
with characteristic enthusiasm into the questions 
of the day. To talk about the glorious future of 
humanity was the fashionable cant of the hour, 
but Madame de Stael really believed in the re- 
generation about which others affectedly maun- 
dered ; and at all social gatherings in the Rue 
Bergere, or at St. Ouen (where her presence was 
as frequent as of yore), she held forth on this 
subject to the crowd of dazzled listeners, whom 
she partially convinced and wholly overpowered. 

She had been married but little more than a 
year when the first shadow of coming events 
dimmed the lustre of her new existence. In a 
speech pronounced at the Assembly of Notables 
in April 1787, M. de Calonne impugned the accu- 
racy of the famous Compte Rendu. M. Necker 
indignantly demanded from the King the permis- 
sion to hold a public debate on the subject, in 
the presence of the Assembly before which he 
had been accused. Louis XVI. refused ; and M. 
Necker then immediately published a memoir of 
self-justification. The result was 3. lettre de ca- 
chet which exiled him to within forty leagues of 


Paris. The order, conveyed by Le Noir, the Min^ 
ister of Police, reached M. Necker in the evening, 
when he was sitting in his wife's salon, surround- 
ed by his daughter and some friends. The live- 
liness of Madame de Stael's indignation may be 
imagined. She has described it herself in her 
Considerations sur la Revohition Frangaise, and 
declared that the King's decision appeared to her 
an unexampled act of despotism. Its parallel 
would not have been far to seek, and acts a thou- 
sand times worse disgrace every page of the annals 
of France. But Madame de Stael, always inca- 
pable of judging where the "pure and noble" 
interests of her father were concerned, can be 
pardoned for her exaggeration in this instance, 
as she had half France to share it. " All Paris," 
she says, " came to visit M. Necker in the twenty- 
four hours that preceded his departure. Even 
the Archbishop of Toulouse, already practically 
designated for M. de Calonne's successor, was not 
afraid to make his bow." 

Offers of shelter poured in upon M. Necker, 
and the best chateaux in France were placed at 
his disposal. He finally elected the Chateaux de 
Marolles, near Fontainebleau, although not, as he 
nai'vely confesses in a letter to his daughter, 
without some secret misgivings as to " the decided 
taste in all things good and bad of dear mamma." 

Thither Madame de Stael hastened to join him, 


and to console by her unfailing sympathy, her 
constant applause, and inexhaustible admiration, 
a misfortune which, after all, had been singularly 
mitigated. M. Necker accepted all this homage 
as his due, and his magnanimous wish, that the 
Archbishop of Toulouse might serve the State 
and King better than he would have done, is 
recorded by his daughter with the unction of a 
true devotee. There is something adorably sim- 
ple and genuine in all her utterances about this 
time. In a letter to her husband (who apparently 
never objected to play second fiddle to M. and 
Madame Necker) she directs him exactly how to 
behave at Court, so as to bring home with dig- 
nity, yet force, to their Majesties the wickedness 
of their conduct towards so great and good a man ; 
and she adds that but for her position as Am- 
bassadress she would never again set foot within 
the precincts of Versailles. This she wrote even 
after the lettre de cachet was cancelled. A few 
months later a reparation was offered to her father 
with which even his own sense of his worth and 
the idolatry of his family should have been satis- 
fied ; for he was recalled to power — unwillingly 
recalled, it is true. The King's hand was forced. 
His 'present sentiments to M. Necker, if not hos- 
tile, were cold ; while those of the Queen had 
changed to aversion. But the Marquis de Mira- 
beau had defined the position of France as " a 


game of blind-man's buff which must lead to a 
general upset " ; consternation had invaded even 
the densest intelligences ; and the voice of the 
public clamored for its savior. This time, again, 
the title given to M. Necker was Director- Gen- 
eral of Finance ; but, on the other hand, the cov- 
eted entry into the Royal Council was accorded 
him. It was the first instance, since the days of 
Sully, of such an honor being granted to a Prot- 
estant ; it was given at a moment when the sug- 
gestion to restore civil rights to those of alien 
faith had been bitterly resented by the French 
clergy ; and it was one of the many signs (for 
those who had eyes to see) that the last hour of 
the old regime had struck. 

The nomination was hailed with a burst of ap- 
plause from one end of France to the other. 
Madame de Stael hurried to St. Ouen with the 
news, but she found her father the reverse of 
elated. Fifteen months previously — the fifteen 
months wasted by the ineptitude of Brienne — he 
said he might have done something ; now it was 
too late. 

Madame de Stael was far from sharing these 
feehngs. When anything had to be accom- 
plished by her father, she was of the opinion of 
Calonne, in his celebrated answer to Marie An- 
toinette — ''Si c est possible, cest fait ; si cest 
impossible, cela se fera!' And undoubtedly M. 


Necker did his best on returning to power ; but, 
in spite of his honesty, good faith, and unques- 
tionable abilities, he was not the man for the 

Very likely, as his friends, and especially his 
daughter, asserted, no Minister, however gifted, 
could have succeeded entirely in such a crisis ; 
and doubtless he was as far as any merely pure- 
minded man could be from deserving the storm 
of execration with which the Court party event- 
ually overwhelmed him. We have said that he 
did his best ; his mistake was that he did his best 
for everybody. In a moment, when an unhesi- 
tating choice had become imperative, he was 
divided between sympathy with the people and 
pity for the King. 

He returned to power without any plan of his 
own ; but finding Louis XVI. was pledged to 
assemble the States-General, he insisted that the 
representation of the Tiers Etat should be dou- 
bled, so as to balance the influence of the other 
two parties. Royalists affirm that this was a fatal 
error, since from that hour the Revolution be- 
came inevitable. Madame de Stael, jealous of 
her father's reputation, maintains that reasonable 
concessions on the part of the Court faction and 
the higher clergy would have nullified the danger 
of the double representation. But the point was 
that such an aristocracy and such a clergy were 


by nature unteachable ; and every moment wasted 
in attempting to persuade them was an hour add- 
ed to the long torture of oppressed and starving 

The kind heart, liberal instincts, and adminis- 
trative ability of Necker taught him that without 
the double representation the voice of the people 
might be lifted in vain. But the weakness of his 
character, and the awe of his bourgeois soul for 
the time-honored fetich of monarchy, prevented 
his understanding that the power he invoked 
could never again be laid by any spell of his 
choosing. By seeking to arrange this or that, 
to pare off something here and add something 
there — in a word, by trying to be just all round, 
when nobody cared for mutual justice but him- 
self, he rendered a divided allegiance to his coun- 
try and his King. If there were no conscious 
duplicity in his character, there was abundance 
of it in his opinions ; and to say that nobody 
could have succeeded better is to beg the ques- 
tion. In the face of the savage, inflexible arro- 
gance of the aristocrats and clergy, there was but 
one course open to a really high-minded man, 
and that was to leave the Court to its own de- 
vices, and, throwing himself with all of earnest- 
ness and wisdom that he possessed into the 
popular cause, to be guided by it, and yet govern 
it by force of sympathy and will. 


He might have failed ; in the light of later 
events, it can even be said that he would have 
failed. But such a failure would have been 
grander, more vital for good and sterile for harm, 
than the opprobrium which eventually visited the 
honest Necker and pursued him to his grave. 

Needless to say that opinions such as these 
never found their way into Madame de Stael's 
mind. On occasions — perhaps too frequently re- 
newed — the portals of that enchanted palace 
were guarded by her heart. In her view, every- 
thing might yet be saved, were Necker only lis- 
tened to and obeyed. '* Every day he will do 
something good and prevent something bad," she 
wrote to the reactionary and angry Gustavus, 
and thus betrayed that preoccupation with the 
individual, his virtues or his crimes, which, for 
all her intellect, blinded her not rarely to the 
essential significance of things. 

With breathless interest and varied feelings of 
sympathy and indignation she watched the great 
events which now followed in rapid succession. 
Her father was monarchical, and believed that a 
representative monarchy on the English model 
was the true remedy for France. Madame de 
Stael — incapable of differing with so great a man 
— endorsed this opinion at the time, although 
eventually she became republican. 

But nobody was republican then — that is in 


name ; people had not yet realized to what logical 
conclusions their opinions would carry them. 
Madame de Stael, hating oppression, blamed the 
sightless obstinacy of the nobles, but, on the 
other hand, was but little moved by the famous 
Sermeitt du yen de Paume. She deplored the 
rejection of Necker's plan — that happy medium 
which was to settle everything, and stigmatized 
as it deserved the imbecility of the Court party, 
as illustrated by confidence in foreign regiments 
and the Declaration .of the 23d June. Always 
optimist, and confident of the inevitable triumph 
of Right over Might, she clung to the belief that 
a thoroughly pure character, in such a crisis, was 
the one indispensable element of success. 

The mysterious nature of Sieyes repelled her ; 
she preferred the virtuous Malouet to the titanic 
Mirabeau, and was almost as bUnd as her father 
to the enormous electric force of the tribune's 
undisciplined genius. For if often prejudiced, 
she rarely was morbid, and false ideas did not 
dazzle her. No splendor of achievement unac- 
companied by loftiness of principle could win her 
applause. But she failed to grasp the fact that 
perfection of moral character, by its very scruples 
and hesitations, is necessarily handicapped in any 
race with the velocity of public events. No man 
can bring his entire self — very rarely can he even 
bring all that is best of himself — into a struggle 


with warring forces and contradictory individual- 
ities. In such a contest, swiftness of insight, 
power of expression, and force of organic im- 
pulse are the only factors of value. In supreme 
moments of action, men are greater than them- 
selves — made so by the sudden, unconscious con- 
traction of their complex personality into one 
flame-point of consuming will. 

All this Madame de Stael seems never to have 
felt. If she loved unworthy people (and how 
many she did love !), it was because she deceived 
herself regarding them, as all her life she de- 
ceived herself about her father. She was intol- 
erant of any triumph but that of virtue, and was 
thus rendered unjust to the great deeds of men 
who, imperfect and erring themselves, can sym- 
pathize with the aspirations of the human heart 
because its baseness is not unknown to them. 

On the nth of July, at 3 o'clock in the after- 
noon, M. Necker, who had become a sort of Cas- 
sandra to the Court party and was detested in 
proportion, received a letter from the King order- 
ing him to quit Paris and France, and to accom- 
plish the departure with the utmost secrecy and 
despatch. He was at table with some guests 
when this order was handed to him ; he read it, 
put it into his pocket, and continued his conver- 
sation as though nothing had happened. 

Dinner over, he took Madame Necker aside, 


and informed her what had occurred. Nothing 
was communicated to Madame de Stael ; proba- 
bly her father thought she would be too much 
excited. M. and Madame Necker hastily ordered 
their carriage and, without bidding anybody fare- 
well, without even delaying to change their 
clothes, they had themselves conveyed to the 
nearest station for post-horses. Thence they 
continued their journey uninterruptedly, fleeing 
like culprits from the people whose indignation 
was feared by the King. 

Madame de Stael is lost in admiration of this 
single-minded conduct of her father, and lays 
especial stress on the fact that, even during the 
journey, he made no effort to win for himself the 
suffrages of the multitude. " Where is another 
man," she naively asks, " who would not have 
had himself brought back in his own despite t " 

Certainly an ambitious man might have adopt- 
ed this theatrical plan ; but it is much more likely, 
under the actual circumstances, that an ambitious 
man would never have left at all. M. Necker 
had only to announce his disgrace to the people 
of Paris, and go over once for all to the popular 
side, to have received an intoxicating ovation. 
As it was, the news of his dismissal cast the cap- 
ital into consternation. All the theatres were 
closed, medals were struck in the fallen Minis- 
ter's honor, and the first cockade worn was 


green — the color of his liveries. What a career 
might then have been his if, instead of being an 
obedient subject, he had chosen to be a leader! 

Madame de Stael thought that it was to the 
last degree noble and disinterested of him to van- 
ish from the sight of an adoring multitude rather 
than bring fresh difficulties on the master who 
had deserted him. But the destinies of a nation 
are of higher value than the comfort of a mon- 
arch, and there are certain responsibilities which 
no man who does not feel himself incapable (and 
that was not Necker's case) is justified in declin- 
ing. To throw back the love and influence 
offered him then for the last time by France, to 
sympathize with the popular cause and yet to 
abandon it, and to do all this out of obedience to 
the senseless caprice of a faction and the arbi- 
trary command of a king, was to behave like a 
Court chamberlain, but in no sense like a states- 

The taking of the Bastille, and the King's dec- 
laration at the Hotel de Ville, followed immedi- 
ately on Necker's retirement. Madame de Stael 
records these events in a very few words, and 
shows herself, at the moment and henceforward 
through all the opening scenes of the Revolution, 
more alive to the humiliation and dismay of the 
Royal Family than to the apocalyptic grandeur 
of the catastrophe. 


The acts committed, as one reads of them qui- 
etly now, are revolting in their mingled gro- 
tesqueness and terror. To those who witnessed 
them, they sickened where they did not deprave. 
The livid head of Foulon on the pike ; the greasy, 
filthy, partly drunken populace, who rose as from 
the depths of the earth to invade the splendid 
privacy of royal Versailles ; the degraded women 
dragged from shameful obscurity and paraded in 
the lurid glare of an indecent triumph ; Madame 
de Lamballe's monstrous and dishonored death ; 
Marat's hellish accusations, and Robespierre's 
diseased suspicions, were things that must have 
destroyed in those who lived through them all 
capacity for admiration. 

The fact that Madame de Stael did not lose 
heart altogether remains an abiding witness to 
her faith and courage. She was wounded in her 
tenderest part by the Court's ingratitude and 
the Assembly's indifference towards her father. 
Every natural and cultivated sentiment in her 
was wounded by what she saw. Unlike Madame 
Roland, she had no traditions and no past of her 
own to attach her, in spite of everything, to the 
people. She was insensible to the merely physical 
infection of enthusiasm, and never even for a mo- 
ment possessed by the vertigo of the revolution- 
ary demon-dance. She remained, from first to 
last, an absolute stranger to every act and every 


consideration that was not either manifest to her 
intellect or strong in appeal to her heart ; and 
yet such was her force of mind and rectitude of 
insight that, under the Directory, we shall find 
her no less interested in public events than under 
the Monarchy. 

The grief that Madame de Stael undoubtedly 
experienced at her father s banishment was not 
destined to be of long duration. He had hardly 
reached the Hotel des Trois Rois at Bale, when, 
to his great astonishment, Madame de Polignac 
asked to speak to him. She was the last person 
that he expected to see there ; but surprise at her 
presence was soon swallowed up in the far greater 
amazement excited by all she had to tell. The 
taking of the Bastille ; the massacre of Foulon 
and Berthier and DeLaunay ; the critical posi- 
tion of De Besenval, and the stampede of the 
aristocrats — what a catalogue of events ! He 
had never, his daughter says, admitted the possi- 
bility of proscriptions, and he was a long while 
before he could understand the motives which 
had induced Madame de Polignac to depart. He 
had not much time to reflect on all he had heard 
before letters from the King and from the Assem- 
bly arrived urging him to return. He did so 
most unwillingly, according to Madame de Stael, 
for the murders committed on the 14th July, 
although few in number, affrighted him, and " he 


believed no longer in the success of a cause now- 
blood-stained." He seems to have abandoned all 
sympathy with the people from this moment, and 
to have returned avowedly with no intention than 
that of using his popularity as a buckler with 
which to defend the royal authority. 

Madame de Stael, informed by letters from her 
father of his departure from France and ultimate 
destination (which was Germany), had hastened 
after him with her husband and overtook him first 
at Brussels. There the party had separated mo- 
mentarily, M. Necker hurrying forward with the 
Baron de Stael, and Madame Necker, who was 
suffering in health, following by slower stages 
with her daughter. The consequence was that 
Madame de Stael arrived at Bale after her father's 
interview with Madame de Polignac, and almost 
at the same time as he received the order to 

In this way she had the profound joy of wit- 
nessing the enthusiasm which greeted him on 
every step of his way. No such ovation, she truly 
says, had ever before been bestowed upon an 
uncrowned head. Women fell on their knees as 
the carriage passed ; the leading citizens of the 
towns where it stopped took the places of the 
postilions, and the populace finally substituted 
themselves for the horses. They met numbers 
of aristocratic fugitives on the journey, and M. 


Necker, at their request, showered on them auto- 
graph letters to serve as passports and enable 
them to cross the frontiers in safety. 

Whenever the carriage stopped, the popular idol 
harangued the crowd and impressed on them the 
necessity of respecting persons and property ; he 
entreated of them, as they professed so much love 
for him, to give him the most striking proof that 
they could of it, by always doing their duty. 
Madame de Stael says that her father was fully 
aware of the fleeting nature of popularity ; and, 
under these circumstances, one wonders that he 
took the trouble, in such a crisis, to make so 
many speeches. But it is probable that the intox- 
ication of praise was a little too much for him ; 
and he had at all times the sacerdotal tendency 
to preach. 

At ten leagues from Paris, news was brought 
to the travellers that De Besenval had been 
arrested by order of the Commune, and was to be 
taken to the capital, where he would, said the 
pessimists, be infallibly torn to pieces by the 
populace. M. Necker, entreated to intervene, 
took upon himself to rescind the order of the 
Commune, and promised to obtain the sanction 
of the authorities to his act. 

On arriving in Paris, consequently, his first 
care was to proceed, in company with his family, 
to the Hotel de Ville. The streets, the roofs, the 


windows of every house were densely thronged. 
Cries of "Vive Necker!" rent the air, as the re- 
deemer of the country appeared on a balcony and 
began his discourse. 

He demanded the amnesty of De Besenval and 
of all those who shared De Besenval's opinion. 
This extensive programme committed all those 
who accepted it to a reactionary policy, since to 
pardon the people's enemies unconditionally was 
to condone, and in a measure to sanction their 

But no such considerations presented them- 
selves at that moment to impair Necker's tri- 
umph. The popular enthusiasm accorded him 
what he asked ; fresh thunders of applause broke 
forth, and Madame de Stael, overcome with emo- 
tion, fainted. 



Necker's victory over the rage of the populace 
was a fleeting one. He had, indeed, overstepped 
the prerogatives of a Minister in asking for the 
amnesty. Misled by the elation of his gratified 
vanity and the impulse of his benevolent heart, 
he, an ardent defender of order, forgot that in 
placing himself between the Assembly and King 
on the one hand and the people on the other, he 
practically recognized the right of a faction to act 
without the consent of the Government. It was 
for the latter to reverse the decree of the Com- 
mune and not for the electors of Paris. 

His dream of smiling peace installed by his 
hand on the ruins of the Revolution was rudely 
and rapidly dispelled. Madame de Stael sorrow- 
fully records that on the very evening of that glo- 
rious day the amnesty was retracted, and ascribes 
this result in great part to the influence of Mira- 
beau. But, in truth, a very little reflection must 
have sufficed to convince anybody that the Uto- 
pian demands of Necker were singularly mis- 



placed. The very electors who had acceded to 
them asserted that all they had ever intended 
was to shield the arrested royalists from the fury 
of the populace, but in no sense from the action 
of justice. The Assembly confirmed this view, 
and from that moment Necker's influence was 
practically gone. It was proved to be a bubble ; 
and his triumph, respectable as were some of the 
motives which had urged him to invoke it, be- 
came ludicrous when contrasted with the stern 
and tragic realities of the moment. This Mad- 
ame de Stael did not, could not see. She was 
fain to console herself with the compassionate 
reflection that, after all, De Besenval — an old 
man — was saved. 

She narrates with dolorous pride the efforts 
honestly, courageously, and to a certain degree 
successfully, made by her father, during fifteen 
months, to avert the disaster of famine ; and inno- 
cently appeals to them against the failure as a 
statesman, to which she resolutely shuts her eyes. 

One measure after another opposed by Necker 
was voted — the confiscation of the property of 
the clergy, the suppression of titles of nobility, 
and the emission of assignats. No popularity 
could have resisted such successive blows ; and 
Necker was popular no longer. Still, Madame 
de Stael touchingly begs the world, in her writ- 
ings, not to allow itself to be turned from the 


paths of virtue by the spectacle of a good man so 
persecuted by fate. She claims our admiration 
for a series of quixotic acts, and is perpetually 
insisting on the amazing magnanimity which 
would not allow her father to become base be- 
cause he had ceased to be useful. 

Thoroughly discouraged at last (perhaps partly 
convinced that to preach kindness to savages, 
and self-abnegation to the vile, was a task to be 
resumed in better times) Necker tendered his 
resignation, and had the mortification of seeing 
it accepted with perfect indifference both by the 
Assembly and the King. 

Before leaving Paris forever, he deposited in 
the royal treasury two millions of his own prop- 
erty. The exact object of this munificence is not 
clear; even Madame de Stael failed to explain it 
on any practical grounds. But she admired it 
extremely, and so may we. 

The journey with the terrified and suffering 
Madame Necker to Switzerland was a great con- 
trast to the return in the previous year to Paris. 
Then it had been ''roses, roses all the way" ; 
now it was nothing but insults. At Arcis-sur- 
Aube the carriage was stopped by an infuriated 
crowd, who accused M. Necker of having be- 
trayed the cause of the people in the interests of 
the emigrant nobles. The accusation was an 
absurd one, since he had only endeavored to 


be superhumanly kind to everybody. He had 
wished to preserve the people from crimes and 
starvation, the clergy from ruin, and the emigrant 
nobles from detection, and this was the result. 
It was hard, but inevitable, and as there were 
many worse fates than M. Necker's in those days 
one cannot quite free oneself from a feeling of 
impatience at Madame de Stael's perpetual lam- 
entations over the inconceivable hardships of her 
parent's lot. 

We now approach an episode in Madame de 
Stael's life which it is necessary to touch on with 
discretion. This is her connection with the 
Count Louis de Narbonne. The stories circu- 
lated in regard to them are familiar to all readers 
of Madame d'Arblay's memoirs. Dr. Burney 
thought himself in duty bound to warn his little 
Fanny against her growing adoration for Necker's 
great, but, according to him, not blameless daugh- 
ter, who, during her stay at Mickleham, exerted 
herself to win the friendship of the author of 
Cecilia. Fanny, as we know, was at first greatly 
shocked, and completely incredulous. She de- 
scribed Madame de Stael as loving M. de Nar- 
bonne tenderly, but so openly, and in a manner 
so devoid of coquetry, that friendship between 
two men, in her opinion, could hardly be dif- 
ferently manifested. But the seed of suspicion 
once cast in the little prude's mind, quickly 


germinated, and led eventually to a total cessa- 
tion of her acquaintance with the woman whose 
brilliancy and goodness had so fascinated her. 
This is not the place in which to discuss Fanny's 
conduct ; but was the information on which she 
based it correct ? Who shall say ? Madame de 
Stael was extremely imprudent, and she seems 
to have been dangerously near to loving a num- 
ber of men. 

Miss Berry, in her memoirs, accuses her of a 
*' passion " for Talleyrand, and spoke as though 
concluding it to be a theme of common gossip. 
She certainly liked to absorb a great deal of her 
friends' affection, and was avowedly displeased 
when they married. Her sentiments towards 
Baron de Stael, full of a sweet and fresh cordiality 
at first, seems rapidly to have changed to aver- 
sion. As far as it is possible to judge, she un- 
hesitatingly sacrificed him on all occasions to her 
filial love or her intellectual aims. When he was 
in Paris she left him in order to console M. 
Necker in his mournful retirement at Coppet. 
When he was at Coppet she remained in Paris, 
there to form and electrify a constitutional salon. 
Various anecdotes attest to the scandal uttered 
about her, and the truth of some of these stories 
admits of little doubt. But, on the other hand, 
it must be remember^ed that detraction is ever 
busiest with the greatest names ; that Madame 


de Stael, always preoccupied with her subject 
and never with herself, irritated the nerves and 
stirred the bile of inferior people who were pro- 
portionately gratified to hear her attacked ; and 
that she lived in the midst of a society where 
conjugal fidelity was rare enough to be hardly 
believed in. Countless passages in her writings 
prove how exalted was her ideal of family life ; 
and if they also prove her constant, restless 
yearning after some unattained, unattainable 
good, there is at least no sign of the satiety of 
exhausted emotion in them. Let us be content, 
then, that in many instances a veil should hide 
from us the deeper recesses of Madame de Stael's 
heart. Grant that there were two Germaines — 
one her father's daughter, lofty-minded, pure, 
catching the infection of exalted feelings, and 
incapable of error ; the other her husband's wife, 
thrust into the fiery circle of human passion, 
thence to emerge a little scorched and harmed. 
The hidden centre of that dual self cannot be 
revealed to us ; but what we do know is some- 
times so grand and always so great that we can 
afford to be indulgent when reduced to conject- 

In 1791, after having paid a visit of condolence 
to her father at Coppet, Madame de Stael had 
returned to Paris, and made her salon the rally- 
ing-point for the most distinguished Constitu- 


tionels. Conspicuous among these, in principles 
although not in name, was De Narbonne, de- 
scribed by Madame de Stael herself as " Grand 
seigneicr, hotnme d' esprit, courtisan et philosophe'^ 
He was a brilliant, an enlightened, a generous 
and charming man. His sympathies were lib- 
eral ; it would have been too much to expect from 
him that they should be subversive. He had 
been brought up in the enervating atmosphere of 
the Court, yet had adopted many of the new 
ideas. After having accomplished the difficult 
and perilous enterprise of escorting the King's 
aunts to Rome, and establishing them under the 
roof of the Cardinal de Bernis, he returned to 
Paris and ranged himself on the side of the Con- 
stitution. His soldier-soul (he was an extremely 
gallant officer) would not allow of his going any 
farther along the facile descent of change. The 
King's abortive attempt at escape and subsequent 
imprisonment in the Tuileries restored to Nar- 
bonne all the fervor which his allegiance as a 
courtier might originally have lacked. But he 
was a very intelligent man, so much so, that 
Napoleon himself years later rendered justice to 
his sagacity. He had serious tastes and a great 
love of knowledge, and was almost as witty as 
Talleyrand himself. He was made Minister of 
War in December, 1791, and the general impres- 
sion prevailed that Madame de Stael's influence 


had contributed to his appointment. He was 
young and full of hope, and proposed to himself 
the impossible task of encouraging the action of 
the Assembly at the same time as he sought to 
reconstruct the popularity of the King. He also 
exerted himself to prepare France for resistance 
to the armies of foreign invaders ; visited the 
frontier ; reported the state of things there to the 
Assembly ; provisioned the forts ; re-established 
garrisons, and organized three armies. But what 
he could not do was to inspire anybody with con- 
fidence in himself. " Too black for heaven, too 
white for hell," he could neither rise to the sub- 
lime ineptitude of deluded royalism nor sink to 
the brutal logic of facts. Curtly dismissed by the 
King, at the end of three months, on resigning 
the portfolio he resumed the sword. 

To defend his ungrateful sovereign was his 
religion, since, in spite of his talents, he did not 
reach the point of perceiving that there is a mo- 
ment in the history of every nation when individ- 
uals must be sacrificed to principles. Perhaps 
this preoccupation of minds, naturally enlight- 
ened, with merely personal issues is the real key 
to all that was tragically mysterious in the Rev- 
olution. Madame de Stael herself deplored the 
fate of the King and Queen with precisely the 
same wealth of compassion that she would have 
expressed on the occasion of some catastrophe 


involving hundreds of obscure lives. It seemed 
as though only such sanguinary monomaniacs as 
Robespierre or St. Just, only such corrupt and 
colossal natures as Mirabeau or Danton, could 
look below the accidental circumstances of an 
event to its enduring elements. All that was 
morally and vitally, as distinguished from men- 
tally and potentially, best in France threw itself 
into passionate defence of persons ; while all 
that was strong, original, consistent, was drawn 
into the fatal policy of blood. 

A few months after Narbonne's fall, Madame 
de Stael endeavored to associate him in a plan 
which her pity had suggested to her for the 
escape of the Royal Family. She wished to buy 
a property that was for sale near Dieppe. Thus 
furnished with a pretext for visiting the coast, 
she proposed to make three journeys thither. 
On the first two occasions she was to be accom- 
panied by her eldest son, who was the age of the 
Dauphin, by a man resembling the King in 
height and general appearance, and by two 
women sufficiently like the Queen and Madame 
Elisabeth. In her third journey she would have 
left the original party behind and taken with her 
the whole of the Royal Family. But the King 
and Queen refused to co-operate in this romantic 
and courageous plan. Their motives were not 
unselfish. Louis XVI. objected to Narbonne's 


share in the scheme ; and Marie Antoinette, who 
regarded the double representation of the Tiers 
Etat as the cause of all her woes, detested Neck- 
er's daughter. 

When the Tuileries was invaded by the mob, 
M. Necker, who was already at Coppet, and knew 
that the Baron de Stael had been recalled to 
Sweden, wrote urging his daughter to join him. 
But she was chained to Paris, fascinated by the 
very scenes that revolted her, and anxious to 
intervene if only to save. She assisted, with 
slender sym.pathy for the revolutionaries, at the 
celebration of the 14th July in the Champs de 
Mars, and was wrung with pity for the tear- 
stained countenance of the Queen, whose mag- 
nificent toilet and dignified bearing contrasted 
with the squalor of her cortege. Madame de 
Stael's eyes were fixed with longing compassion 
on the figure of the King as he ascended the 
steps of the altar, there to swear for the second 
time to preserve the Constitution. His pow- 
dered head, so lately desecrated by the bonnet 
rouge, and gold-embroidered coat struck her 
imagination painfully as the vain symbols of 
vanished ease and splendor. 

Then came the terrible night of the 9th Au- 
gust, during which, from midnight to morning, 
the tocsins never ceased sounding. ** I was at 
my window with some of my friends " (wrote 


Madame de Stael), " and every fifteen minutes 
the volunteer patrol of the Constitutionels 
brought us news. We were told that the fau- 
bourgs were advancing headed by Santerre the 
brewer and Westermann. . . Nobody could 
foresee what would happen the next day, and 
nobody expected to survive it. . . . All at 
once (at 7 o'clock) came the terrible sound of 
cannon. In this first combat the Swiss Guards 
were victors." 

The tidings — partly false, as afterwards proved 
— were brought her of the massacre of Lally Tol- 
lendal, Narbonne, Montmorency, and others of 
her friends ; and at once, regardless of peril, she 
went out in her carriage to hear if the news were 
true. After two hours of fruitless efforts to pass, 
she learnt that all those in whom she was most 
interested were still alive, but in hiding ; and, as 
soon as the evening came, she sallied forth once 
more to visit them in the obscure houses where 
they had taken refuge. Later, she came to have 
but one thought, which was to save as many as 
she could of her friends. They were unwilling 
at first to take shelter in her house as being too 
conspicuous ; but she would listen to no such 
objections. Two yielded to her persuasions, and 
one of these was Narbonne. He was shut up 
with his companion in the safest room, while the 
intrepid hostess established herself in the front 


apartments, and there, in great anxiety, awaited 
a domiciliary visit from the authorities. They 
were not long in coming and in demanding M. 
de Narbonne. To permit a search was practi- 
cally to deliver up the victim. Madame deStael's 
whole mind was consequently bent on averting 

The police agents were exceptionally ignorant, 
and of this fact she was quick to take advantage. 
She began by instilling alarm into them as to the 
violation of rights which they committed in 
invading the house of an ambassador, and she 
followed this up by informing them that Sweden, 
being on the frontier of France, would descend 
upon that offending land immediately. She next 
passed to pleasantries, and succeeded so well in 
cajoling her visitors that they finally allowed 
themselves to be gracefully bowed out. Four 
days later a false passport supplied by a friend 
of Madame de Stael allowed Narbonne to escape 
to England. 

The Swedish ambassadress herself could easily 
have left France at any moment, but she lingered 
on from day to day, unwilling to quit the country 
while so many of her friends were in danger; 
and she was rewarded at last by the opportunity 
of interfering to save Jaucourt, who had been 
conveyed to the Abbaye — now aptly named *' the 
Ante-chamber of Death." Madame de Stael 


knew none of the members of the Commune, but, 
with her unfaiUng presence of mind, she remem- 
bered that one of them, Manuel, the procitreuTy 
had some pretensions to be Uterary. These pre- 
tensions being greater than his talent, Madame 
de Stael rightly concluded that he possessed suf- 
ficient vanity to be moved by solicitation. She 
wrote to ask for an interview, which was accord- 
ed her for the next morning at 7 o'clock in the 
official's own house. 

''The hour was democratic," she remarks, but 
she was careful to be punctual. Her eloquence 
achieved an easy victory over Manuel, who, un- 
like so many of his colleagues, was no fanatic ; 
and on the ist of September he made Madame 
de Stael happy by writing to inform her that, 
thanks to his good offices, Jaucourt had been set 
at liberty. 

She now, at last, determined to quit France 
the next day, but not alone. Resolute to the end 
in risking her life for that of others, she consent- 
ed to take the Abbe de Montesquion with her in 
the disguise of a domestic, and convey him safely 
into Switzerland. A passport obtained for one 
of her servants was given to one of his, and a 
place on the high road indicated as a rendezvous 
where the Abbe was to join her suite. 

When the next morning dawned a fresh ele- 
ment of terror had invaded the public mind. 


The news of the fall of Longwy and Verdun had 
arrived and Paris was in effervescence. Again 
in all the sections the tocsin was sounding ; and 
everybody whose own life was his chief preoc- 
cupation kept as quiet as possible. But Madame 
de Stael could not keep quiet — that was impos- 
sible for her at all times — and at this moment the 
image paramount in her mind was that of the 
poor Abbe waiting anxiously at his rendezvous 
— perhaps only to be discovered if his generous 
deliverer delayed. 

Turning a deaf ear to all remonstrance, she 
started in a travelling-carriage drawn by six 
horses, and accompanied by her servants in gala 
livery. This was an unfortunate inspiration. 
Instead of filling the minds of the vulgar with 
awe, as she had vainly hoped, it aroused their 
vigilant suspicions. The carriage had hardly 
passed under the portals of the hotel before it 
was surrounded by a furious crowd of old women, 
"risen from hell," as Madame de Stael energet- 
ically expressed it, who shrieked out that she was 
carrying away the gold of the nation. This in- 
telligent outcry brought a new contingent of 
exasperated patriots of both sexes, who ordered 
the fugitive Ambassadress to be conveyed to the 
Assembly of the Section nearest at hand. 

She did not lose her presence of mind, but on 
descending from the carriage found an opportu- 


nity of bidding the Abbe's servant rejoin his mas- 
ter and tell him of what had happened. This 
step proved to be a very dangerous one. The 
President of the Section informed Madame de 
Stael that she was accused of seeking to take 
away proscribed royalists, and that he must pro- 
ceed to a roll-call of her servants. One of them 
was missing, naturally, having been despatched 
to save his own master; and the consequence 
was a peremptory order to Madame de Stael to 
proceed to the HStei de Ville under charge of a 
gendarme. Such a command was not calculated 
to inspire her with any sentiment but fear. Sev- 
eral people had already been massacred on the 
steps of the Hotel de Ville ; and although no 
woman had yet been sacrificed to popular fury, 
there was no guarantee for such immunity last- 
ing ; and, as a point of fact, the Princess de Lam- 
balle fell the very next day. 

Madame de Stael's passage from the Fau- 
bourg Saint Germain to the Hotel de Ville lasted 
three hours. Her carriage was led at a foot- 
pace through an immense crowd, which greeted 
her with reiterated cries of " Death ! " It was 
not herself they detested, she says, but the evi- 
dences of her luxury ; for the news of the morn- 
ing had brought more opprobrium than ever on 
the execrated name of aristocrat. Fortunately, 
the gendarme who was inside the carriage was 


touched by his prisoner's situation and her deli- 
cate condition of health, and her prayers, and 
promised to do what he could to defend her. By 
degrees her courage rose. She knew that the 
worse moment must be that in which she would 
reach the Place de Greve ; but by the time she 
arrived there aversion for the mob had almost 
overcome in her every feeling but disdain. 

She mounted the steps of the Hotel de Ville 
between a double row of pikes, and one man 
made a movement to strike her. Thanks to the 
prompt interposition of the friendly gendarme, 
she was able, however, to reach the presence of 
Robespierre in safety. The room in which she 
found him was full of an excited crowd of men, 
women and children, all emulously shrieking, 
" Vive la Nation ! " 

The Swedish Ambassadress was just beginning 
to protest officially against the treatment she had 
met with, when Manuel arrived on the scene. 
Never was any apparition more opportune. 
Greatly astonished to see his late illustrious vis- 
itor in such a position, he promptly undertook to 
answer for her until the Commune had made up 
its mind what to do with her ; and conveying her 
and her maid to his own house, shut them up in 
the same cabinet where Madame de Stael had 
pleaded for Jaucourt. 

There they remained for six hours, *' dying of 


hunger, thirst, and fear." The windows of the 
room looked out upon the Place de Greve, and 
consequently offered the spectacle of bands of 
yelling murderers returning from the prisons 
"with bare and bleeding arms.'* 

Madame de Stael's travelling carriage had 
remained in the middle of the square. She ex- 
pected to see it pillaged ; but a man in the uni- 
form of the National Guard came to the rescue 
and passed two hours in successfully defending 
the luggage. 

This individual turned out to be the redoubta- 
ble Santerre. He introduced himself later in the 
day to Madame de Stael, and took credit for his 
conduct on the ground of the respect with which 
M. Necker had inspired him when distributing 
corn to the starving population of Paris. 

In the evening Manuel, pallid with horror at 
the events of that awful day, took Madame de 
Stael back to her own house, through streets of 
which the obscurity was only relieved at mo- 
ments by the lurid glare of torches. He told her 
that he had procured a new passport for herself 
and her maid alone ; and that she was to be 
escorted to the frontier by a gendarme. 

The next day Tallien arrived, appointed by the 
Commune to accompany her to the barriers. 
Several suspected aristocrats were present when 
he was announced. Most people under such cir- 


cumstances would have taken care to be found 
alone ; but Madame de Stael remained undaunt- 
ed to the end. She simply begged Tallien to be 
discreet, and he fortunately proved so. A few 
more difficulties had to be encountered before 
she was fairly in safety ; but at last she reached 
the pure air and peaceful scenes of the Jura. 



Madame de Stael arrived at Coppet about the 
beginning of September, 1792. The life there, 
after her recent experiences in Paris, so far from 
seeming to her one of welcome rest, fretted her 
ardent spirit almost beyond endurance. She 
longed to be back in France, even under the 
shadow of the guillotine, anywhere but in front 
of the lake, with its inexorable beauty and mad- 
dening calm. 

" The whole of Switzerland inspires me with 
magnificent horror," she wrote to her husband, 
who was still in Sweden. " Sometimes I think 
that if I were in Paris with a title which they 
would be forced to respect, I might be of use to 
a number of individuals, and with that hope I 
would brave everything. I perceive, with some 
pain, that the thing which least suits me in the 
world is this peaceful and rustic life. I have put 
down my horses for economy's sake, and because 
I feel my solitude less when I do not see any- 



By "anybody" it is to be presumed that she 
meant the good Swiss, whose expressions of hor- 
ror, doubtless as monotonous as reiterated, must 
have been irritating to one whose single desire 
night and day, was to cast herself into the arena, 
there to combat and to save. One outlet she 
found for her activity in perpetual plans for ena- 
bling her friends, and often her enemies, to escape 
from Paris. 

The scheme which she projected was to find 
some man or woman, as the case might be, who 
would enter France with Swiss passports, cer- 
tificates, etc., and after getting these properly 
viseSy would hand them over to the person who 
was to be saved. 

Nothing could be simpler, Madame de Stael 
averred ; and as she provided money, time, 
thought, energy, and presumably infected her 
agents with a little of her own enthusiasm, her 
efforts were often successful. Among those who 
engaged her attention were Mathieu de Mont- 
morency, Frangois de Jaucourt, the Princess de 
Poix and Madame de Simiane. 

Among the people whom she saved, and whose 
rescue she records with the most complacency, 
is that of young Achille du Chayla. He was a 
nephew of De Jaucourt's, and was residing at 
Coppet under a Swedish name — (M. de Stael had 
lent himself to many friendly devices of that 


kind). The news came that Du Chayla, when 
trying to escape across the frontier under cover 
of a Swiss passport, had been arrested at a fron- 
tier town on suspicion of being what he truly 
was — a refugee Frenchman. Nevertheless, the 
authorities declared themselves willing to release 
him if the Lieutenant Baillival of Nyon would 
attest that he was Swiss. What was to be done } 
To bring M. Reverdil, the functionary aforesaid, 
to such a declaration seemed well-nigh hopeless, 
and Jaucourt was in despair. His nephew, if 
once his identity were discovered, had no chance 
of escape from death ; for not only was his name 
on the list of the suspected ones, but his father 
actually held a command under Conde's banner. 
This was one of the opportunities in which Mad- 
ame de Stael delighted. Her spirits rose at once 
in the face of such difficulties. Fortunately, M. 
Reverdil was an old friend of her family ; she 
believed that she would be able to melt him, and 
she hurried away to try. 

The task was more arduous than she had antic- 
ipated. M. Reverdil (by her own confession one 
of the most enlightened of Swiss magistrates) 
turned out to have a sturdy conscience and an 
uncomfortable amount of common sense. He 
represented to his ardent visitor, first, that he 
would be wrong in uttering a falsehood for any 
motive ; next, that in his official position he 


might compromise his country by making a false 
attestation. " If the truth be discovered," he 
urged, ^'we shall no longer have the right of 
claiming our own compatriots when arrested in 
France ; and thus I should jeopardize the interest 
of those who are confided to me for the sake of 
saving a man towards whom I have no duties." 
M. Reverdil's arguments had " a very plausible 
side," Madame de Stael allowed thus much her- 
self ; but the good man little knew with whom 
he had to deal if he thought that such cold jus- 
tice would have the least effect on his petitioner. 
She swept all paltry considerations as to the 
remote danger of unknown, unromantic Swiss 
burghers to the winds. Her object was to bring 
back to Jaucourt the assurance of his young 
nephew's safety ; and from this no abstract prin- 
ciples could turn her. 

She remained two hours with M. Reverdil, 
arguing, entreating, imploring. The task she 
proposed to herself was, in her own words, " to 
vanquish his conscience by his humanity." He 
remained inflexible for a long while, but his vis- 
itor reiterating to him, " If you say No, an only 
son, a man without reproach, will be assassinated 
within twenty-four hours, and your simple word 
will have killed him," he ultimately succumbed. 
Madame de Stael says it was his emotion that tri- 
umphed ; it is just possible that it was sheer 


physical exhaustion. Madame de Stael was at 
no time a quiet person to deal with ; when excited, 
as in the present instance, she must have been 

It was shortly after these events that Madame 
de Stael visited England, and while there went 
to Mickleham, there to be introduced to, and for 
a time to captivate, Fanny Burney. Except Tal- 
leyrand, she was the most illustrious of the bril- 
liant band of exiles gathered together at Juniper 
Hall, and familiar to all readers of the memoirs 
of Madame d'Arblay and the journal of Mrs. 
Phillips. It is well known how Fanny withdrew 
from her intimacy with the future author of 
Corinne on learning the stories which connected 
the latter's name with Narbonne. Mrs. Phillips 
herself was much more indulgent, and Madame 
de Stael appears to have felt a grateful liking for 
her ; but it is evident that she was deeply hurt at 
Fanny's coldness. The approbation of a nature 
so narrow could hardly have affected her much, 
one would think, and yet it is plain that she 
longed for it — she longed indeed, all her life for 
such things as she possessed not. She could 
sacrifice her wishes at all times generously and 
unregretfully, but she never knew how to bear 
being denied one of them. 

In all the glimpses one obtains of Madame de 
Stael, in different countries and from different 


people, she never seems quite so womanly, so 
imperfect and yet so pathetic, as in these journals 
of Mrs. Phillips. Perhaps the reason of it is that 
one divines in her at this time a sentiment which, 
if erring, was simple and truey while many of her 
later sorrows gained a kind of factitious grandeur 
from the train of political circumstances attend- 
ant on them. Mrs. Phillips was present when 
Madame de Stael received the letter which sum- 
moned her to rejoin her husband at Coppet, and 
relates the effect produced upon her. She was 
most frankly inconsolable, spoke again and again 
of her sorrow at going, and made endless entreat- 
ies to Mrs. Phillips to attend to the wants, spirits 
and affairs of the friends whom she was leaving. 
She even charged her with a message of forgive- 
ness for the ungrateful Fanny, and fairly sobbed 
when parting with Mrs. Folk. 

Madame de Stael did not leave Coppet again 
until after the Revolution. Her life seems to 
have passed with a monotony that the long drama 
of horror slowly culminating in Paris rendered 
tragically sombre. She continued her efforts — 
every day more difficult of accomplishment and 
sterile of results — to save her friends and foes ; 
and when the Queen was arraigned, she wrote, 
in a few days, that eloquent and well-known 
defence of her which called down upon the writer 
the applause of every generous heart in Europe. 


The Neckers during this period seem to have 
seen very little society. Gibbon was almost their 
only friend; and in 1794 he went to England, 
and a few months later died. The next to go was 
Madame Necker herself. She had long been ill, 
and her last few months of life were embittered 
by cruel pain. She had prepared for her end 
with the minute and morbid care that might have 
been expected from her. The tomb at Coppet in 
which she rests, together with her husband and 
daughter, was built in conformity with her wishes, 
and in great part under her eyes. She died on 
6th May, 1794. M. Necker felt her death 
acutely, and for months not even his daughter's 
sympathy could console him. Madame Necker 
had one of those self-tormenting natures which 
poison the existence of others in embittering their 
own. Too noble to be slighted, and too exacting 
to be appeased, they work out the doom of un- 
achieved desires ; and when they go to be wrapt 
in eternal mystery, their parting gift to their 
loved ones is a vague remorse and doubting. 
Silent themselves when they might have spoken, 
they leave an unanswered question in the hearts 
of their survivors. Monsieur Necker, with his 
exaggerated consciousness, must have asked him- 
self repeatedly if he had cared for his strange and 
loving wife enough. Madame de Stael mourned 
her mother sincerely, but it is clear that the keen- 


est edge of her grief came from contemplation of 
her father's. 

Three months had not elapsed after Madame 
Necker's death when the 9th Thermidor dawned, 
and at its close, all sanguinary as that appalling 
termination was, France drew one long sigh of 
Inconceivable relief, for Robespierre had fallen. 
The Directory followed, and Baron de Stael hav- 
ing been re-nominated to his post, his wife lost 
no time in hurrying back to Paris. There, true 
to her indefatigable self, she immediately set 
about obtaining the eradication of her friends' 
names from the list of the proscribed emigres. 
From this moment her opinions, and with them 
her character, underwent a certain change. She 
had been a moderate royalist; she became 
avowedly a republican. But her republicanism 
was of a strangely abstract and eclectic sort, and 
it was dashed with so many personal leanings 
towards monarchists that it resulted in nothing 
better than a spirit of intrigue. 

She could not understand that the law, what- 
ever it may be, which governs circumstances, 
makes no account of individuals. She believed 
that, by causing Mathieu de Montmorency and 
Talleyrand to be recalled from exile, and inspir- 
ing Benjamin Constant with the loftiest ideals, 
she could obliterate the blood-stained past and 
reverse the logic of events. When everybody 


(everybody, that is, whom she cared about) should 
have been restored to peace, prosperity, and the 
air of France, she conceived that the study of 
metaphysical systems and the cultivation of the 
affections would alone be needed to re-model and 
perfect humanity. 

With this in view she toiled and plotted un- 
ceasingly, clasping the hands of regicides like 
Barras, rubbing skirts with such women as Tal- 
lien, and sacrificing her own pet ideal of womanly 
duty, which consisted, as she repeatedly pro- 
claimed, in loving and being loved, and leaving 
the jarring strife of politics to men. 

Had she remained in France, she must inevi- 
tably have been betrayed into greater inconsist- 
encies still. But, fortunately for her fame, her 
intellect, and her character, the period was ap- 
proaching in which Bonaparte's aversion was to 
condemn her to a decade of illustrious exile. 



In all its varied story, the world probably never 
offered a stranger spectacle than that presented 
by Paris when Madame de Stael returned to 
it in 1795. The mixture of classes was only 
equalled by the confusion of opinions, and these, 
in their turn, were proclaimed by the oddest con- 
trasts in costumes. Muscadms in gray coats and 
green cravats twirled their canes insolently in the 
faces of wearers of greasy carmagnoles ; while 
the powdered pigtails of reactionaries announced 
the aristocratic contempt of their wearers for the 
close-cropped heads of the Jacobins. 

To the squalid orgies in the streets, illuminated 
by stinking oil-lamps, and varied by the rumble 
of the tumbrils, had succeeded the salons where 
Josephine Beauharnais displayed her Creole 
grace, and Notre Dame de Thermidor sought to 
wield the social sceptre of decapitated princesses. 
Already royalism had revived, although furtively, 
and fans onwhich the name of the coming King 
could be read but by initiated eyes, were passed 



from hand to hand in the cafes of *' Coblentz." 
A strange light-hearted nervous gayety — intoxi- 
cating as champagne — had dissipated the lurid 
gloom of the Terror ; the dumbness of horror had 
given way to a reckless contempt for tyranny. 
A sordid, demented mania for speculation had 
invaded all classes, and refined and delicate 
women trafficked in pounds of sugar or yards of 

An enormous sensation was produced by Du- 
cancel's Nouveaicx Aristides, ou l Interieitr des 
Comites Revolutionnaires, a comedy in which its 
author distilled into every line the hoarded bit- 
terness of his soul against the Jacobins. 

Barras flaunted his cynical sensuality and 
shameless waste in the face of a bankrupt society ; 
and austere revolutionaries, beguiled into the 
enervating atmosphere of the gilded salons, .sold 
their principles with a stroke of the same pen 
that restored some illustrious proscribed one to 
his family. " Every one of us was soliciting the 
return of some emigre among his friends," writes 
Madame de Stael. " I obtained several recalls 
at this period ; and in consequence the deputy 
Legendre, almost a man of the people, denounced 
me from the tribune of the Convention. The 
influence of women and the power of good soci- 
ety seemed very dangerous to those who were 
excluded, but whose colleagues were invited to 


be seduced. One saw on decadis, for Sundays 
existed no longer, all the elements of the old and 
new regune united, but not reconciled." 

Into this seething world Madame de Stael 
threw herself with characteristic activity. Le- 
gendre's attack upon her, foiled by Barras, could 
not deter her from interference. Her mind being 
fixed upon some ideal Republic, she was anxious 
to blot out all record of past intolerance. The 
prospect of restoring an aristocrat to his home, 
or of shielding him from fresh dangers, invariably 
proved irresistible to her. Nevertheless she was 
quick to perceive and to signalize the folly of the 
reactionaries ; and she felt but scant sympathy 
with the mad attempt at a monarchical restora- 
tion known in history as the 13th Vendemiaire. 
She uttered no word of palliation for the massa- 
cres committed by the . Royalists in Lyons and 
Marseilles, and she was more than willing to admit 
the benefits conferred on France by the first six 
months of the Government of the Directory. 

But she could not be happy at the continued 
exclusion of the nobles and clericals, and any. 
appeal from one of them touched her with all the 
force of old association. Talleyrand had not 
returned from America when her eloquence 
induced Chenier to address the Convention in 
favor of his recall. Montesquion next claimed 
her attention, and in consequence of all this she 


became an object of suspicion and was accused 
of exciting revolt. The Government, indeed, 
thought her so dangerous that, at one moment, 
when she was at Coppet, they ordered her to be 
arrested and brought to Paris, there to be impris- 
oned. Barras, however, defended her, as she 
relates, *' with warmth and generosity," and, 
thanks to him, she was enabled to return, a free 
agent, to France. 

Throughout the events preceding the coup 
d'Etat of the i8th Fructidor, Madame de Stael 
was keenly alive to the danger which threatened 
and eventually overtook her friends among the 
Moderates. To act, in these circumstances, was 
with her a second nature. Her relations with 
Barras had naturally become very friendly ; and 
she used her influence to obtain the nomination 
of Talleyrand to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 
" His nomination was the only part that I took 
in the crisis preceding the iSth Fructidor, and 
which I hoped by such means to avert," she 
wrote. "One was justified in hoping that the 
intelligence of M. de Talleyrand would bring 
about a reconciliation between the two parties. 
Since then I have not had the least share in the 
different phases of his political career." 

There is a ring of disappointment in these 
words ; but how could Madame de Stael, with 


her supposed infallible insight, ever have believed 
in such a nature ? 

" It is necessary to serve someone," was the 
answer of a noble when reproached for accepting 
the office of chamberlain to one of Napoleon's 
sisters. Madame de Stael records the reply with 
scorn; but she should, one thinks, have recog- 
nized the fibre of just such a man in the Bishop 
of Autun. The proscription extending on all 
sides after the i8th Fructidor, Madame de Stael's 
intervention became unceasing. She learnt the 
danger incurred by Dupont de Nemours, accord- 
ing to her " the most chivalrous champion of lib- 
erty " France possessed, and straightway she 
betook herself to Chenier, who, two years pre- 
viously, had made the speech to which Talley- 
rand owed his recall. Her eloquence soon fired 
the nervous, violent-natured, but imaginative 
author, and, hurrying to the tribune, he succeed- 
ed in saving Dupont de Nemours, by represent- 
ing him as a man of eighty, whereas he was barely 
sixty. This device displeased the very person in 
whose favor it was adopted ; but Madame de 
Stael saved her friends in spite of themselves. 

So much energy could not be displayed with 
impunity, and the Committee of Public Safety 
caused a hint to be conveyed to the Baron de 
Stael, which induced his wife to retire for a short 
time to the country. According to Thibaudeau, 


indeed, the hint was in the first instance a dis- 
tinct order to quit France, and M. de Stael cut a 
somewhat sorry figure when appearing before the 
Committee to protest against it. In spite of his 
*' embarrassed air" and ''want of dignity," he 
managed to convey to his hearers that to expel 
the wife of an ambassador would be a violation 
of rights ; and after some discussion the decree 
was withdrawn. Nevertheless, probably yielding 
to the prudent representations of her husband, 
Madame de Stael did retire for a while, and took 
refuge with a friend. We may suppose that she 
felt greatly aggrieved and ill-used, and yet it can- 
not be denied that her qualities — rare and noble 
though they might be — were not of a nature to 
recommend her to a Revolutionary Government. 
One can even affirm that they were not of a sort 
to recommend her to any Government. Her tal- 
ents, her wealth and her position gave her im- 
mense social power. When she used this, as she 
repeatedly did, to inspire officials with disobe- 
dience to orders, and to save the lives of reac- 
tionary prisoners at the risk of ruining radical 
functionaries, it is not to be wondered at if the 
selfish majority regarded her interference as ex- 
ceedingly pernicious. 

It may even be questioned whether her influ- 
ence at this time was intrinsically valuable. Her 
state of excited feeling kept her floating between 


sympathy with principles and sympathy with 
individuals. The result was an eclecticism of 
feeling, which reflected itself in the composition 
of her salon. Had she been able to declare her- 
self frankly either Monarchical or Republican she 
might have left some lasting impress on the des- 
tinies of her land. As it was, she was kept in a 
condition of restless activity which, while sterile 
of intellectual results, brought her into disrepute 
as a conspirator. 

The time was now rapidly approaching when 
Bonaparte was to cross her path, and, as she 
chose to conceive it, to spoil her existence. The 
instrument of destiny in this instance was Ben- 
jamin Constant. Immediately after the fall of 
Robespierre he arrived — a young old man, world- 
weary, full of unsteady force, and warmed by an 
inner flame of passion that sometimes smouldered 
but never died down. 

A Bernese noble, he had been reared in aris- 
tocratic prejudices, but his life was early embit- 
tered by domestic circumstances and the political 
conditions of his country. After being educated 
at Oxford, Edinburgh, and in Germany, he was 
forced by his father to accept the post of Cham- 
berlain at the Court of Brunswick. Ariel in the 
cloven pine was not more heart-sick, with the dif- 
ference that Constant's "delicate" spirit was 
dashed by a vein of mephistophelian mockery. 


Some malignant fairy seemed to have linked to 
his flashing and unerring insight a disposition the 
most cynical of which man ever carried the bur- 
den through sixty-three years of life. Being 
utterly unwarped by illusion, he could place him- 
self on the side of opposition with telling effect, 
for he could neither deceive himself nor be 
deceived by others ; and if not rigidly conscien- 
tious, he was inexorably logical. 

At war with the authorities of his native land, 
too familiarized with order to be further charmed 
by it, and tired of the solemn absurdities of Court 
functions, he turned his thoughts towards revolu- 
tionary Paris as being, perhaps, the one city in 
the world which could still afford him afresh sen- 
sation. Moreover, every element of originality 
and audacity in his brilliant mind was attracted 
by the amazing spectacle then presented by the 
Convention. A government which, deprived of 
organized armies, money, or traditions, confront- 
ed with a European coalition, and weighted with 
the responsibility of crime, had conquered its ene- 
mies in the field, and made its will respected from 
the Pyrenees to the Rhine, was exactly of a kind 
to fascinate a born combatant like Constant. He 
arrived, eager to be initiated into that strange 
world ; longing to find himself in the salons of 
Madame Tallien, Josephine Beauha-rnais an^ 
Madame de Stael. 


Hitherto his Egeria had been Madame de 
Charriere, a charming middle-aged monitress, 
Dutch by birth, but French by right of intellect 
and choice of language. Her delicate penetra- 
tion and subtle sympathy with minor moods had 
doubtless for years responded precisely to his 
ideal ; for if she might not excite neither could 
she bore him ; and she must have understood his 
fastidious notions even before he could express 
them. She was, in fact, perfection, as long as he 
was still too young to mind feeling old ; but there 
necessarily came a moment when that uncon- 
scious comedy was played out. The fitful energy 
of his nature had gradually vanquished his early 
lassitude, and he needed to renew his utterances 
at the founts of some Sybilline inspiration. 

Madame de Stael appears simply to have over- 
whelmed him ; and the effect which he produced 
on her was not less startling. Her salon was the 
rallying-ground of contradictory individualities. 
She believed in those days that she could recon- 
cile Irreconcilables, and she welcomed Conven- 
tionnels hke Chenier and Roederer, stranded 
•'survivals" of a vanished epoch like Suard, 
Morellet and Laharpe ; and aristocrats, some of 
them altogether soured and worn out, like Castel- 
lane, Choiseul and Narbonne. Into this political 
menagerie Constant fell like a spirit from another 
world. Applauding the Revolution, yet having 


played no part in it, he was its virgin knight. 
There was something strange and attractive also 
in his appearance ; a certain awkwardness in fig- 
ure and gesture joined to a handsome, clever, 
young face and long, fair hair. Just at that mo- 
ment (1795) the predominant tendency in Ma- 
dame de Stael's salon was hostile to the Govern- 
ment. She professed herself already to be 
converted to Republicanism, and probably was 
so in theory, but she had not yet overcome her 
aversion to the real revolutionaries. Either 
directly through her influence or with her tacit 
consent, Constant was induced to publish three 
letters protesting against the admission of two 
thirds of the old Convention into the new body 
of Representatives. The success which followed 
was prodigious. All the women of the Royalist 
party flattered and caressed him, and all the jour- 
nalists extolled him to the skies. Constant, how- 
ever, was not the man to bear that kind of petting 
long, he required excitement with some keener 
edge to it, and was, moreover, too logical, too 
naturally enlightened and liberal to endorse reac- 
tionary platitudes. He hastened to disavow the 
letters, and although he did not find it easy to 
disabuse the public mind of its first impression, 
he was careful not to deepen this by any further 
mistakes. During the following four years his 
intimacy with Madame de Stael flourished and 


grew apace. They acted and reacted upon one 
another by the law of their opposing natures. 
His ardor was as uncertain as hers was steady ; 
but whenever he caught fresh fire, it came from 
her. On the other hand, the tormenting kind of 
cruelty which belonged to his cynical caprice 
seems to have cast a spell over Madame de Stael's 
own warm and frank simplicity which she found 
it difficult to break. 

To Constant, at this time, belongs the merit of 
having appreciated her thoroughly and defended 
her warmly — if not invariably, at any rate in his 
truer moments. On his very first meeting with 
her, which was in Switzerland, she enthralled him 
instantaneously ; perhaps all the more so that, 
like most people, he had been prejudiced against 
her by hearsay. He wrote to Madame de Char^- 
riere, who seems to have felt and expressed some 
bitterness regarding his new acquaintance, that 
she should get rid of the idea that Madame de 
Stael was nothing more than a " talking ma- 

He praised her lively interest in everyone who 
suffered, and her courage in scheming for the 
escape of her friends and enemies. He admitted 
that she might be active partly because she could 
not help it ; but silenced further carping by the 
remark that her activity was well employed. In 
about a month more his admiration had risen to 


enthusiasm, and he could hardly find words in 
which to praise the brilliancy and accuracy of 
mind, the exquisite goodness, the generosity and 
social politeness, the simplicity and charm of his 
latest friend. He declared that she knew just as 
well how to listen as to talk (a point on which 
many both before and after Madame de Charriere 
differed from him), and that she enjoyed the tal- 
ents of other people quite as much as her own. 
This was perfectly true. No woman ever breathed 
who was less envious than Madame de Stael ; but, 
on the other hand, what woman's intellect was 
ever so unapproachable .'* At the time, however, 
of her first acquaintance with Constant, her liter- 
ary reputation was still to make, and it is not to 
be wondered at, consequently, if Madame de 
Charriere felt more inclined to question than 
agree when informed that this restless female 
politician was a being of so superior a sort that 
her like could not be met with once in a century. 
About 1796 Madame de Stael took a new de- 
parture. Perhaps thanks to Constant's enlight- 
ened views, perhaps thanks merely to her own 
common sense, she felt the full futility of reac- 
tionary effort, and ranged herself frankly on the 
side of the Directory. The royalist Club de 
Clichy was by this time an accomplished fact ; 
and to neutralize its mischievous influence the 
Cercle Constitutionnel had been formed at the 


H6tel de Salm. For some time Madame de Stael 
was the soul of these meetings, and Constant was 
their orator. Finally, when a fresh division in 
the Convention declared itself, and a large num- 
ber of deputies deserted the Directory, Madame 
de Stael and Constant exerted themselves to 
prove that such dissensions could profit only the 
two extremes of Royalists or Terrorists, but never 
the Moderates. Naturally, the latter were deaf 
(when have Moderates eyes to see or ears to 
hear in moments of vital significance?), and 
Madame de Stael's worst previsions were justi- 
fied by the events of the i8th Fructidor. The 
establishment, two years later, of the Consulate, 
while filling Madame de Stael's noble soul with 
dismay, offered Constant the opportunity as- 
signed to him by his talents. He entered then 
upon the course of opposition from which he did 
not again deviate until sixteen years later, when 
he yielded either to Napoleon's personal charm, 
the fascination of his deeds, and the hope of his 
repentance, or to the profound disgust of a world- 
worn man with the imbecility of the Restoration. 

This is how Constant, in 1800, described the 
state of the public mind in France : — 

" The predominating idea was : Liberty has 
done us harm, and we wish for it no longer ; and 
those who modestly pointed out to these candi- 
dates for slavery that the evils of the Revolutioii 


came precisely from the fact that the Revolution 
had suspended liberty, were hounded through the 
salons under the names of Jacobins and Anarch- 
ists. A nation which begged for slavery from a 
military chieftain of thirty, who had covered him- 
self with glory, might count upon its wishes being 
gratified ; and they were." 

These few lines are a good example of Con- 
stant's incisive intellect and biting style. An- 
other man with such gifts would have retired 
disgusted from all opposition ; but Constant loved 
fighting for its own sake. Perhaps he loved the 
combat better than the cause ; but that is one of 
the secrets which it is given to no one to fathom. 
Whatever the central motive, the final fact of his 
complex and interesting nature, he proved him- 
self the ideal leader of a forlorn hope. 

By the contemporaries of Constant and Ma- 
dame de Stael the connection between these two 
brilliant minds was, as might be expected, vari- 
ously judged. Later critics have asserted that 
he was completely under her influence, but it is 
more likely that his native cynicism and spurious 
passion alternately irritated and dominated her. 
She may have inspired, but she couldnot mould, 
a nature so original and perverse. 

Chenedolle said of Madame de Stael about this 
time that she had more intelligence than she 
could manage, and in this there was probably 


some truth. She had hardly begun to write as 
yet, having published (besides some pamphlets) 
only the Letters on Rousseau^ and her work on 
the Passions. Her turbulence of ideas, scarcely 
then reduced to any system, must necessarily 
have been crystallized at moments by contact 
with a more definite mind. 



The hostility between Madame de Stael and 
Napoleon was inevitable, since not a single point 
of sympathy existed between them. Her moral 
superiority, unselfishness, romantic ardor and sin- 
cerity, were precisely the qualities for which he 
would feel contempt, as being incompatible with 
the singleness of individual purpose, serene indif- 
ference to suffering, and calm acceptance of 
means which' are necessary to material success. 
Madame de Stael was intimately convinced that 
not only honesty, but every other virtue consti- 
tuted the best policy. Napoleon treated all such 
amiable theories as mere sentimentalism. If 
occasionally sensual from love of excitement, he 
was essentially passionless, and looked upon 
women as toys, not as sentient beings. He hated 
them to have ideas of their own ; he liked them 
to be elegant, graceful and pretty. He was 
brought into contact with Madame de Stael — a 
woman overflowing with passion, energy and 
intellect, large of person, loud of voice, careless 



in attire. She had generally found her eloquence 
invincible, and he meant nothing to be invinci- 
ble but his system. She had every reason to 
believe in her talent, and proclaimed that belief 
somewhat obstreperously ; while he was disgust- 
ed at not being able to differ from her, and at 
finding that there was still one light which could 
shine unquenched beside his star. He usually 
succeeded in repressing people so entirely as to 
leave alive in them no possibility of protest ; but 
she was, by her nature, irrepressible. It is true 
that she records having felt suffocated in his 
presence, but such a feeling could not have 
endured in her long. A very little familiarity 
would have transformed it into impatient rebel- 
lion. For Napoleon society, with a few excep- 
tions, was composed of dummies, some of them 
a little more tangible and resisting than others, 
consequently more difficult to thrust out of the 
way. The individual had no intrinsic value for 
him, but was simply a factor in the sum of suc- 
cess. Madame de Stael admired everybody who 
was clever, loved everybody who was good, pitied 
everybody who was sorrowful. She detested 
oppression, and fought against it and conquered, 
if not materially, at least morally, although some- 
times she hardly foresaw when engaging in it 
how much the fight would cost her. In the 
beginning of her acquaintance with him Madame 


de Stael evidently entertained an admiration for 
Napoleon greater than that which she eventually 
cared to avow. Bourrienne goes so far as to 
assert that she was in love with him, and that 
she wrote him perfervid letters, which he dis- 
dainfully threw into the fire. It is not necessary 
to accept the whole of this story. Bourrienne 
as a returned hnigre can have felt but a meagre 
sympathy for Madame de Stael, and he probably 
yielded to the temptation of making his account 
of her as piquant as possible. But as she never 
did anything by halves, and always wrote with 
the most unconventional ardor, it is certain that 
her first sentiments towards the conqueror of 
Italy were expressed in a form to weary rather 
than gratify him. She presumably praised him 
for views which he did not hold, and for a disin- 
terestedness that he was far from feeling. He 
must have understood that to an intellect such 
as hers, the first shock of disappointment would 
bring enlightenment, and then his schemes would 
be penetrated before they were ripe for execu- 
tion. Add to all these elements of antipathy the 
fact that every intelligent man in Paris would find 
his way to Madame de Stael's salon, with the 
further fact that she herself was not to be 
silenced, and it becomes easy to understand how 
Bonaparte could condescend from his greatness 
to hate her. 


His aversion, owing to his Italian blood, had a 
strain of Pulcinello-like malignity, and every fresh 
outbreak of clamor from his victim only roused 
him to strike harder. That he should exile her 
in the first instance was not only comprehensible 
but justifiable. He had undertaken a gigantic 
task, that of accomplishing by the single force of 
his own will, and in the brief space of his own 
life-time, what, in the natural course of events, 
would have required the slow action of genera- 
tions. That is, he sought to weld into his own 
system the mobile, alert, and impressionable 
mind of France. 

To crush a thing so impalpable, to extinguish 
a thing so fiery, was an impossible undertaking, 
and to anybody but Napoleon it must have 
seemed so. He, at least, so far understood its 
magnitude as to appreciate the full danger of 
even a momentary reaction. And what, in that 
sombre but electric atmosphere, charged with 
suppressed fire, was so likely to provoke a reac- 
tion as the influence of Madame de Stael— a 
woman of amazing talent, of high position and 
great wealth ; notoriously disinterested, and, 
although ever true to her principles, yet strongly 
swayed by personal influences. 

Moreover, she represented the Opposition. 
Let anybody consider what public opinion is, 
even in well-ordered England, how it reverses in 


a moment the best laid plans of Ministers, and it 
becomes easy to understand how in revolutionary 
France, a new thought emanating from Madame 
de Stael's salon could prove gravely dangerous to 
Napoleon. In exiling her he only treated her 
as she had been treated already. If he found 
her in France on coming to power, it was because 
she had been reconciled to the Directory ; but 
there never was the least chance of her becoming 
reconciled to him. 

There are several very womanly touches in 
Madame de Stael's own account of her relations 
with Napoleon. Here is one of them, relating 
apparently to a time when the aversion between 
the First Consul and his illustrious foe had 
become an accomplished but not an acknowl- 
edged fact. Madame de Stael was invited to 
General Berthier's one evening when it was 
known that Napoleon would be present. 

" As I knew," she says, " that he spoke very 
ill of me, it struck me that he would address me 
with some of the rude things which he often liked 
to say to women, even to those who flattered him ; 
and I wrote down on chance, before going to the 
party, the different stinging and spirited replies 
which I could make to his speeches. I did not 
wish to be taken by surprise if he insulted me, 
for that would have been a greater want of char- 
acter even than of wif; and as nobody could be 


sure of remaining at ease with such a man, I had 
prepared myself beforehand to defy him. For- 
tunately, it was unnecessary ; he only put the 
most insignificant question in the world to me, 
for . . . he never attacks except where he feels 
himself to be the stronger." 

The whole of this passage is enchantingly 
simple-minded. One may be allowed to think, 
in spite of Madame de Stael's assertion to the 
contrary, that she was really disappointed at not 
being able to make some of her defiant retorts to 
the conqueror; but it was child-like of her to 
have arranged them in advance ! 

Napoleon was preparing to invade Switzerland. 
Madame de Stael flattered herself for a moment 
that she might deter him from the project, and 
sought an interview with him for that purpose. 
The tete-a-tete lasted an hour, and Napoleon lis- 
tened with the utmost patience, but he did not 
give himself any trouble to discuss Madame de 
Stael's arguments, and quickly diverted the con- 
versation to his own love of solitude, country life 
and fine arts — three things for which, by the way, 
his visitor cared almost as little as himself. She 
came away convinced that the eloquence of 
Cicero and Demosthenes combined would not 
move him, but captivated, she admits, by the 
charm of his manner ; in other words, by the 
false bonhomie which he possessed the art of 


introducing into his Italian garrulity. While 
Madame de Stael pleaded and Bonaparte chat- 
tered they were both learning to understand one 
another, but it is most probable that the first to 
be enlightened was the man. 

Switzerland being threatened with an invasion, 
Madame de Stael left 'Paris in 1798 to join her 
father at Coppet ; for he was still on the list of 
emigres, and therefore came under a law which 
forbade him on pain of death to remain on any 
soil occupied by French troops. His daughter, 
always as much alarmed by remote danger as 
courageous when in imminent peril, trembled for 
his safety, and supplicated him to leave, but in 
vain. He probably supposed that her fears were 
groundless ; and so they turned out to be. 

When Madame de Stael was returning to 
France, Necker, anxious to have his name erased 
from the list of the proscribed, drew up a memo- 
rial to that effect, which was presented by his 
daughter to the Government. His request hav- 
ing been unanimously granted, his next step was 
to endeavor to recover the two millions which he 
had quixotically left in the public treasury when 
quitting France on the outbreak of the Revolu- 
tion. The Government recognized the debt, and 
offered to pay it out of the confiscated church 
lands. But to this M. Necker would not consent. 
He no longer disapproved of the sale of ecclesi- 


astical property, but he did not wish to throw 
doubt on his perfect impartiality by confounding 
his interests with his opinions. 

About this time Madame de Stael's separation 
from her husband took place. Her ostensible ob- 
ject was to ensure the safety of her children's fort- 
une, which was jeopardized by Baron de Stael's 
extravagance. Any other reason which may 
have existed is not of great importance, inasmuch 
as the Baron, always a shadowy personage, had 
finally been quite eclipsed by his brilliant wife. 
He was said to be indifferent to her, but he seems 
to have been always fairly amiable and very obe- 
dient. As it will not be necessary to speak of 
him again, it may be mentioned here that he died 
in 1802, and that his last moments were soothed 
by the ministrations of his wife, who, hearing 
that he was ill, travelled from Switzerland to 
France to attend on him, and tried to bring him 
back with her to Coppet ; but he expired on the 
road at a place called Poligny. 

Madame de Stael happened to be returning 
from Coppet to Paris on the i8th Brumaire, when 
she learnt that her carriage had passed that of 
her former ally Barras, who was returning to his 
estate at Grosbois accompanied by gendarmes. 
The name of *' Bonaparte " was' on everybody's 
lips — the first time, as she remarks, that such a 
thing had happened since the Revolution. The 


state of things which she found on entering the 
capital was of a kind to excite her imagination. 
Five weeks of intrigue had ripened Napoleon's 
opportunity, and the 19th Brumaire dawned on a 
France exhausted and enslaved. 

From that moment Madame de Stael's role 
was marked out for her irrevocably as one of per- 
petual opposition. At no time inclined to silence, 
she was, we may be sure, both loud and intrepid 
in her denunciation of the new tyranny. At first 
Napoleon appeared disposed to win her over. 
Joseph Bonaparte, who was her friend and fre- 
quented her salon, came to her once with some- 
thing that sounded like a message. Napoleon 
had asked why Madame de Stael would not give 
in her adhesion to his Government. Did she 
want the two millions to be paid to her father, or 
residence in Paris accorded him .? There should 
be no difficulty about either. She had only to 
say what it was she wanted. Madame de Stael's 
answer is celebrated : **The question is not what 
I want, but what I think." 

Some protests against the growing despotism 
proceeded from the Tribunat, and notably from 
Constant. It is superfluous to say that Madame 
de Stael applauded these with fervor. It is well 
known how, the evening previous to a celebrated 
speech which he was about to make. Constant 
consulted her on the subject. She encouraged 


him warmly, although already perceiving that the 
path which she had elected to tread would, in all 
likelihood, lead to exile. The salon was full of 
her friends at the time, but Constant warned her 
that, if he spoke the next day, everybody would 
desert her. "You must obey your conscience," 
she replied ; but adds that, had she known what 
she would have to suffer from that day, and 
throughout the next ten years, her answer might 
have been different. But here we think that 
Madame de Stael's literary instinct carried her 
away. She was very sincere, but very imagina- 
tive, and, when writing for the public, it must 
often have been difficult for her to distinguish 
between what she felt before and after the fact. 
Considering what her disposition was, and the 
opportunities for eloquence afforded both to her- 
self and Constant by an attitude of hostility to 
Napoleon, it is impossible to resist the conclu- 
sion that she enjoyed her opposition with one- 
half of her nature, if she regretted its results with 
the other. 

For some weeks after Constant's speech Ma- 
dame de Stael's salon, usually so animated, was 
silent and deserted. Joseph Bonaparte was for- 
bidden by his brother to attend it ; but most 
people needed no prohibition, they absented 
themselves of their own accord under various 
pretexts. Fouche, the Minister of Police, called 


on her, and insinuated that a brief retirement 
into the country would be advisable, as giving 
the storm time to blow over. She took the hint, 
and retired for a short time to St. Ouen. On her 
return to Paris she avers that she did not find 
Napoleon's vi^rath at all appeased. Apparently 
she expected it to die a spontaneous death, for 
she did not adopt the only means by v^hich she 
could have pacified him, but continued to applaud, 
if not instigate, an active hostility to his meas- 
ures. It vi^ould have been grand and magnani- 
mous of Napoleon to have despised the enmity of 
a woman, but he was neither grand nor magnan- 
imous. Moreover, the last thing which Madame 
de Stael probably desired was to be despised. 
Nobody can deny her the meed of admiration 
which she deserved for her love of liberty, and 
the indomitable spirit with which, when in exile, 
she refused to conciliate her oppressor by one 
word of praise. But, inasmuch as she knew with 
whom she had to deal, and what would be the 
consequence of her actions, one must admit that 
the amount of pity which she claimed for herself, 
and has generally received, is excessive. She 
was in direct contradiction to her own theories 
of a woman's true duty, when interfering in poli- 
tics ; and in being treated by Napoleon as a man 
might have been, she paid the penalty of the 
splendid intellect which emancipated her from 


the habits and the views, if not from the weak- 
nesses, of her sex. She was neither helpless nor 
harmless, since she could stir up enemies to the 
tyrant by her eloquence, and revenge herself, 
when punished, by the power of her pen. She 
was exiled not because she was a woman and 
defenceless, but because she was a genius and 
formidable. She deliberately engaged in a con- 
test of which the object was to prove who was 
the stronger— herself or Napoleon. 

She came out of it scarred, but dauntless. 
What right had she to complain because the 
weapons that wounded her were keen } 

Besides, paltry as Napoleon showed himself in 
many respects, he was a phenomenon of so ex- 
ceptional a nature that to judge him by ordinary 
standards was absurd. It was the weakness of 
France which made his opportunity ; and if the 
epoch had not been abnormal, he never could 
have dominated it. The people whom he gov- 
erned had two courses open to them : to submit 
or to protest. The first brought profit, the sec- 
ond glory ; and the glory which is purchased by 
no sacrifice is unworthy of the name. 

In 1801 Madame de Stael published her work 
on Literature, in which, as she says, there was 
not a word concerning Napoleon, although " the 
most liberal sentiments were expressed in it with 
force." The book produced an immense sensa- 


tion ; and Parisian society, in its admiration for 
the writer, forgot the First Consul's displeasure, 
and again crowded round her. She admits that 
the winter of 1801 was a pleasant one. Napo- 
leon, passing through Switzerland the previous 
summer, had seen and spoken with M. Necker. 
It is characteristic of both interlocutors that the 
ex-statesman was far more impressed with the 
warrior than the latter with him. Necker divined 
in the young hero a strength of will to which his 
own hesitating nature was a stranger; while 
Napoleon, on his side, penetrating but preju- 
diced, contemptuously described the once august 
financier in two words, '* A banker and an Ideal- 
ist." With his usual cynicism, he attributed 
Necker's visit to the desire of employment ; 
whereas Madame de Stael affirmed that her 
father's chief object was to plead her cause. In 
this he was so far successful that residence in 
France was for some time at least assured to her. 
" It was," she writes, *' the last time that my 
father's protecting hand was extended over my 
life." For the moment, either this beneficent 
influence, or, as is more likely, a passing fit of 
good humor on the part of Napoleon, enabled her 
to enjoy existence. Fouche consented to recall 
several emigres for whom she interceded, and even 
Joseph Bonaparte once again treated her with 


cordiality, and entertained her for a little time at 
his estate at Morfontaine. 

A variety of circumstances arose to put an end 
to this state of things and to revive Napoleon's 
dislike to Madame de Stael. Her father pub- 
lished his work, Dernieres Vues de Politique etde 
Financey with the avowed intention of protest- 
ing against Napoleon's growing tyranny. His 
daughter had encouraged him in this feeling, her- 
self unable, as she declares, to silence this " Song 
of the Swan." Then Bernadotte had inaugu- 
rated a certain sullen opposition to the First Con- 
sul, and Madame de Stael immediately became 
his friend. Finally, her salon was more crowded 
than ever, and by great personages, such as the 
Prince of Orange and other embryo potentates, 
besides foreigners of celebrity in letters and sci- 

Napoleon detested salons. It was his convic- 
tion that a woman who disposed of social influ- 
ence might do anything in France, inasmuch as 
he held that the best brains in the country were 
female. Madame de Stael, moreover, possessed 
the art of keeping herself well before the public. 
Even now she had just published Delphine^ and 
all the papers were full of it. To please Napol- 
eon, they condemned it as immoral — a strange 
criticism in that age, and an excellent advertise- 
ment in any. 

MEETS napoleon: 


Napoleon, on Madame de Stael's again visiting 
Switzerland, hinted to Lebrun that she would do 
well not to return to Paris. His obsequious col- 
league hastened to intimate this by letter ; and 
although the communication was not official, the 
First Consul's lightest intimations by this time 
carried so much weight that Madame de Stael 
was compelled to obey. She did so very reluc- 
tantly ; and perhaps if her father's prudence had 
not been greater than her own, her longing to be 
back in the capital would have overpowered every 
other consideration. As it was, she made the 
best that she could of a year's uninterrupted 
sojourn at Coppet. The Tribunat meanwhile 
had shown itself again rebellious. Bonaparte, 
irritated, declared that be would shake twelve or 
fifteen of its members " from his clothes like ver- 
min," and Constant had no choice but to rejoin 
his friend in Switzerland. 



Some remarkable people had already begun to 
cluster round the Chatelaine of Coppet. De 
Gerando, Sismondi, Camille Jordan, Madame de 
Kriidener, Madame Recamier— all are interest- 
ing names. Camille Jordan, who was introduced 
by De Gerando, appears to have been taken up 
at once with characteristic ardor by Madame de 
Stael. His Vrai Sens du Vote National sur le 
Consulat a Vie, published in 1802, was just the 
kind of trumpet-call to which she always respond- 
ed. Straightway her letters to him became fre- 
quent, and full of the excessive fervor and flattery 
which. distinguished all her protestations of af- 
fection. Oddly enough, Madame de Kriidener, 
not yet a priestess, but a most .decided coquette, 
appears to have exercised a rather perturbing 
influence upon these new relations. Madame de 
Stael writes that she would have liked to send 
Jordan a ring containing a lock of her hair, and 
formerly the property of her husband, but she is 
restrained by the recollection of Madame de Krii- 


dener's fair tresses, for which, as she learns, 
Camille entertains a lively admiration. Another 
letter contains an invitation to him to join her 
and one or two other friends in a journey to Italy,, 
coupled with a playful hint that in such scenes 
he might find her society more agreeable than 
the lovely blonde's. Camille not responding in 
the way desired, Madame de Stael betrays some 
wounded feeling. She had thought that when 
once she had admired Jordan's writings so much, 
everything must be in harmony between them. 
She had been mistaken. She would take refuge 
in silence. Nevertheless she is not silent ; and 
Madame de Kriidener's name reappears. Ma- 
dame de Stael is willing to admit that she is a 
remarkable person, but objects that she is always 
talking of persons who have killed themselves for 
love of her. Then Jordan is summoned to say 
if it be true that he is in love, not with Madame, 
but with Mademoiselle de Kriidener } She has 
nothing but a Greuze-like face to recommend her, 
and if she has enthralled him then why has he 
not fallen a victim to every young girl of fifteen } 
Nevertheless, if he really be in love, and will con- 
fess it, Madame de Stael will set herself to study 
Mademoiselle de Kriidener better, with a view to 
loving her herself if she prove indeed worthy of 
Jordan's affection. 

In reading all this, one is forced to the conclu- 


sion that a more emotional woman than Madame 
de Stael never trod the earth. Every human 
creature, perhaps, has one unsolved, it may be 
msoluble, riddle in his life — one mystery of feel- 
ing which nobody fathoms. More especially is 
this true of women who live so much in sentiment ; 
and supremely true of a woman like Madame de 
Stael. That ineffable something in her which 
nobody seems to have guessed while she was liv- 
ing, of which Byron felt the presence in her with- 
out divining the cause, was the passionate and 
unappeasable desire to be loved. All men who 
had dealings with her appear to have misunder- 
stood her in so far that they believed her to be 
more dominated by her head than her heart — in- 
stead of understanding that, in her, head and 
heart were the systole and diastole of a temper- 
ament surprisingly forcible but not essentially 
strong. Or, if they did learn to comprehend her 
better at last, it was when she was no longer 
young, and feeling of a certain sort had become, 
alas ! ridiculous. As long as she was entitled to 
feel and to suffer they made almost a reproach to 
her of the intellectual superiority which they 
could not deny, and cast her back upon her own 
thoughts for happiness. 

Madame de Kriidener, on one occasion, arrived 
at the complacent conclusion that Madame de 
Stael was jealous of her. Not jealous of her 


beauty and golden locks, which was conceivable, 
and might have been true, but jealous of her lit- 
erary fame ! Corinne ]Q2i\oMS oi Valerie \ It is 
true that Corin7te had not yet seen the light, 
while Valerie had not only appeared, but had 
met with great success. So great an authority 
as St. Beuve pronounces Madame de Kriidener's 
novel to be a thing of joy, a work to be read 
thrice, "in youth, in middle life, and in old age." 
But it is possible to have many intellectual qual- 
ities, and yet remain at such an immeasurable 
distance beneath Madame de Stael that nothing 
but vanity could scale the height. 

Moreover, Madame de Kriidener's meaner self 
had not been a stranger to the immediate and 
surprising triumph of her work. She was always 
intriguing, and intrigued to some purpose when 
her novel was on the eve of publication. She ran 
about to all the fournisseurs in Paris, asking them 
for bows a la Valerie y caps and gowns a la Va- 

They heard the name for the first time, but 
naturally proceeded to call a variety of articles 
by an appellation presumably so fashionable, and 
the success of the novel was assured. Madame 
de Kriidener, promptly and conveniently obliv- 
ious of the sources of this sudden triumph, al- 
lowed herself to become somewhat intoxicated 
by it, and wrote to a friend that the "dear 


woman" (meaning Madame de Stael) was jeal- 
ous of her. The person at whom this accusation 
was levelled probably never heard of it. She cer- 
tainly would never have divined it ; and, the little 
difficulty about Jordan once overcome, she ap- 
pears to have found Madame de Kriidener's soci- 
ety more than tolerable. Indeed they ended by 
becoming affectionate friends ; but that was after 
the authoress of Valerie had undergone the mys- 
tic change which transformed her from a flirt into 
a priestess. 

She had always been immensely admired, and 
had not preserved a spotless reputation. But 
she had one of those emotional natures in which 
a restless vanity, love of novelty, a morbid sensi- 
bility and an excess of imagination, combine to 
produce religious fervors. 

Standing at a window in Riga one day, she 
saw an old admirer drop dead at the very moment 
that he was lifting his hat to salute her. This 
event made on her one of those terrifying and 
ineffaceable impressions which in regenerate cir- 
cles is known as "a call." She plunged into 
mysticism ; became the exponent of a new dog- 
ma, and finally claimed for herself the gift of 
prophecy. People were, of course, not wanting 
to declare that her predictions had in several 
instances been verified ; and, her personal fasci- 
nation remaining always great, she now acquired 


an enormous influence. Her extreme self-abne- 
gation and boundless charities increased her rep- 
utation for sanctity, and she even succeeded in 
bringing down on herself a satisfactory amount of 
persecution. In Paris superstition was, as always, 
rife. The days were not yet so remote when Philip 
Egalite had gone to question the devil in the 
quarries of Montrouge ; and men were barely 
more than middle-aged who in their first youth 
had looked on the brazen brow of Cagliostro, and 
felt their blood agreeably frozen by the Comte 
de St. Germain's casual mention of personal 
experiences three hundred years old. But little 
more than thirty years previous to Madame de 
Kriidener's '' revival " Mesmer had seen numbers 
of the fairest and many not of the stupidest heads 
in Paris gathered round his famous baquet. A 
little later the illuminati had been credited unve- 
raciously and to their scant honor, with a share in 
the sanguinary priesthood of Robespierre, and 
finally Mademoiselle Lenormand had shuffled the 
cards of prophecy at the instance of Napoleon 
himself. Into this strange world, so exhausted 
and cynical, yet excited, impulsive, and thirsting 
for novel emotions, the Northern Sybil, with her 
strange, pale face and shining eyes, came like a 
wandering star. 

But all this was subsequent to our first meeting 
with • her at Coppet, when she was still fairly 


young and singularly pretty, and the gold in her 
tresses owed as yet no fancied splendor to the 
aureole of inspiration. 

Madame Recamier, the charming Juliette, was 
a far more normal, but a not less attractive per- 
son. Chateaubriand's memoirs have made her 
famous, but he was among the latest of her many 
swains. Her path through life was strewn with 
conquests, and she had offers of marriage by the 
score. They continued up to the age of fifty-one, 
when the author of Rene laid a heart which was 
hardly worthy of her at her feet. 

Three generations of Montmorencys adored 
her ; a German prince of royal blood urged her 
to divorce her husband in order to marry him ; 
and Lucian Bonaparte was among the most ar- 
dent of her slaves. Ampere the younger, at 
twenty, fell in love with her, she being then forty- 
three ; and Chateaubriand addressed her as " tres 
belle et tres charmante'' when she was seventy 
and blind. The little Savoyards turned round in 
the streets to look at her, and when they did so 
no longer she knew that her marvellous beauty 
was on the wane. But the fascination of her 
grace, her goodness, her unfailing tact and deli- 
cate intelligence survived her loveliness ; and the 
men who knew her still worshipped her for years 
after fresher charms had attracted the eyes of the 
multitude. She was not a politician, but her 


friendship with Madame de Stael gave her de- 
cided opinions, and she incurred the anger of 
Napoleon by declining to be Dame du Palais to 
one of his sisters. It was said, however, that 
what specially raised his ire was that a throng 
which on one occasion had been assembled to do 
homage to him, so far forgot his presence, when 
Madame Recamier appeared, as to have eyes only 
for her. 

Finally Constant, the inexplicable, unhappy, 
brilliant Constant, sought the peace which he 
had never found in anyone in a tardy passion for 
her. He sought in vain, for she treated him as 
she treated all men, with a kind and gracious 
indifference which her unique fascination robbed 
of all its sting. She influenced his political con- 
duct — not altogether for good, as it turned out 
in 18 14, when Napoleon returned from Elba. 
Vague hints at a rivalry before this date between 
her and Madame de Stael are to be found in 
some of the correspondence of the time, but they 
are contradicted by the tone of Madame de 
Stael' s letters to her belle Juliette, and by Ma- 
dame Recamier's own rare discretion. 

Moreover, although Constant first saw Ma- 
dame Recamier at Coppet in 1806, and confided 
to her those grievances of his against Madame 
de Stael, which just then were rising to exaspera- 
tion point, it was only in 18 13, when she called 


upon him to defend the interests of Murat at the 
Congress of Vienna, that he fell in love with her. 
The correspondence which ensued between them 
does more honor to her than to him. Leaving 
aside the questionable nature of his passion, he 
allowed himself to speak of Madame de Stael 
with a fractious mistrust which, even if transi- 
tory, could have come from nobody with a more 
deplorable grace. The basis of the sentiment 
appears to have been jealousy of Madame de 
Stael's influence over her devoted friend. Such 
a jealousy was as futile as paltry ; for it would 
have needed a more witching tongue even than 
Constant's to have shaken the loyalty of the lov- 
ing Juliette. To gratify a request of hers he 
wrote some fragments of memoirs and sketched 
a portrait of Madame de Stael which, besides 
much praise, contains some furtive sarcasm at 
her inexpugnable belief in herself — that large 
quality, too grand to be called conceit, which, 
according to Constant, amounted to a cultus and 
inspired a " religious respect." 

It is interesting to record that the first time 
Chateaubriand ever saw Madame Recamier was at 
Madame de Stael's. He had gone to thank the 
latter for having occupied herself about his recall 
to France. He found her at her toilette, talking 
eagerly, and twirling in her fingers, as usual, a 
little green twig, Madame Recamier suddenly 


entered, dressed in white. From that moment 
Chateaubriand was so absorbed in her that he had 
no longer any attention to bestow on her eloquent 
friend. This was in 1800. He did not see her 
again for twelve years. Benjamin Constant, in 
the " portrait " already mentioned, has left an 
account of Madame Recamier and Madame de 
Stael, which gives a very good idea of both of 
them, and is specially interesting as coming from 
such a source. He relates that, at the first inter- 
view between them, Madame Recamier felt very 
shy. He says : — 

Madame de Stael's appearance has been much dis- 
cussed, but a magnificent glance, a sweet smile, and 
an habitual expression of kindness, the absence of 
all minute affectation and of all embarrassing reserve, 
flattering words, praise a little direct but apparently 
dictated by enthusiasm, an inexhaustible variety in 
conversation, astonish, attract, and reconcile almost 
everybody who approaches her. I know no woman, 
and even no man, who is more convinced of her 
immense superiority over the whole world, and who 
renders this conviction less oppressive to others. 
Nothing could be more charming than the conversa- 
tions between Madame de Stael and Madame Re- 
camier. The rapidity of the one in expressing a 
thousand new thoughts, the rapidity of the second in 
seizing and judging them j on the one side a strong 
and masculine intelligence which unmasked every- 
thing, on the other a delicate and penetrating mind 
which understood everything. All this formed a 
whole impossible to render for those who did not 
enjoy the privilege of witnessing it. 


Madame de Stael scattered golden rain of the 
frankest and sincerest praise over Madame Re- 
camier every time that she addressed her. " You 
are exquisite," *'you are beautiful," "you reign 
as a queen over sentiment," are among the sen- 
tences that stud every other line of her letters. 
Another of her female friends was she whom she 
named the " sweet Annette de Gerando," the wife 
of the author of The Signs and Art of Thinking 
in their Mutual Relations, the Origi^i of Human 
Intelligence y the Comparative History of Philo- 
sophic Systems, etc. He was a philanthropist as 
well as a philosopher, and Madame de Stael in 
later years once made rather a bitter allusion to 
this fact. As time went on, and Napoleon's star 
blazed brighter, De Gerando was unable to resist 
the general infection of idolatry ; moreover, he 
had accepted a post under the new Government, 
and the withering blight of officialism fell to a 
certain extent on his spirit. " There is too much 
philanthropy in his friendship," wrote Madame 
de Stael to Jordan. " One is afraid of being 
treated by him like a pauper." 

But in the summer of 1801 all this was still in 
the future, and harmony and wit reigned at Cop- 
pet. Sismondi about this time appears on the 
scene ; discreet, observant, serene, reasonable, 
he conceived for Madame de Stael a friendship 
which remained moderate in expression and sin- 


cere in feeling to the last. He was not as much 
dazzled by her as many, and saw her failings 
clearly. Occasionally she even wounded his 
quiet self-love, and once or twice, when very rest- 
less and excited, she offended him. But he was 
invariably drawn back to her by the spell of her 
goodness. He appears as a rock of strength amid 
all the sparkling, moving, changing tide of ideas 
and feelings that rippled, dashed, recoiled, and 
returned unceasingly in every hour of the sojourn 
at Coppet. His steady sense and calm judgment 
bring out into sharper contrast the unrest of Con- 
stant ; the flashing splendor of Madame de Stael ; 
the dreamy refinement of Mathieu de Montmo- 
rency ; the fantastic charm of Madame de Kriide- 
ner, and the unfailing grace of the lovely ''Juli- 

Bonstetten was yet another visitor at the cha- 
teau. He was called the Swiss Voltaire, was 
eternally young, and even grew younger and 
more plastic in mind as the unnoticed years crept 
over him. He had seen Madame Necker in Paris 
when she was still unmarried, and reappeared in 
her daughter's home at Coppet as gay, as smiHng, 
as vivacious and witty as he had shown himself 
in the long-vanished salon of Madame de Verme- 
noux. He laid himself at Madame de Stael's feet 
at once, was received by her with her usual gra- 
cious warmth, and profited by her keen but gen- 


erous criticism of his works. Everybody began 
by gently laughing at Bonstetten's incurable 
youthfulness, and ended by adoring him for it. 
He wanted steadiness of intellectual purpose — a 
** belfry," as St. Beuve expresses it ; in other 
words, some central fact of mind round which all 
his ideas could rally — but he had plenty of insight, 
and, amid the universal eulogium of Madame de 
Stael's powers, seems to have been the first to 
point out a defect in her which Schiller com- 
mented on later. For when writing of her to 
Frederica Brun, he says : " Her goodness is ex- 
treme, and nobody has more intellect ; but that 
which is best in you, in her does not exist. She 
lacks feeling for art, and sees no beauty except 
in eloquence and intelligence. She has more 
practical wisdom than anybody, but uses it more 
for her friends than herself." 

Frederica Brun herself came to Geneva about 
this time, and has left enthusiastic descriptions 
of Madame de Stael, of Necker, Madame Necker 
de Saussure and Madame Rilliet-Hiiber. She 
also bore testimony to Madame de Stael's devo- 
tion to her children. Her eldest son, Auguste, 
and her only daughter, Albertine, were destined 
all her life to solace her by their love for much 
that she suffered. She directed the education 
of both her boys, but occupied herself especially 
with that of the girl. She was accused by some 


of her friends, even by Sismondi, of not caring 
very much for her children ; but no word of theirs 
ever betrayed any sense of such a deficiency in 
her. On the contrary, both Auguste and Alber- 
tine always spoke and wrote of her with the 
utmost enthusiasm. 

After spending two summers and one winter 
uninterruptedly at Coppet, during which period 
she wrote and published Delphine, the desire to 
return to France grew into an overpowering force. 
Napoleon had now been declared Consul for 
life, and was preparing to invade England. She 
hoped, she said, that amid such multifarious occu- 
pations he would not have leisure to conceive any 
objection, against her establishing herself within 
a few miles of Paris, near enough, in fact, to enjoy 
the society of such friends as would not be too 
much in awe of the potentate to pay her occa- 
sional visits. She further deluded herself with 
the notion that Napoleon would shrink from the 
odium of exiling a woman so well known as her- 
self. Such a hope shows how simple Madame de 
Stael could still be at times. Napoleon was no 
longer in a position in which blame for mere de- 
tails of conduct could touch him, and his career 
from this moment was to be one long outrage on 
public opinion. 

Madame de Stael established herself in a coun- 
try house about ten miles from Paris. Then there 


happened a circumstance which she had not fore- 
seen. In the eighteen months of her sojourn at 
Coppet, the society which she knew formerly had 
grown baser. A whole race of parasites had 
arisen, whose real or fancied interest it was to 
obtain the favor of Napoleon by denouncing the 
people whom he detested. A woman, whose 
name is suppressed, lost no time in informing 
Napoleon that the road leading to Madame de 
Stael's dwelling was crowded with her visitors. 
Immediately one of her friends warned her that 
a gendarme would probably be sent to her with- 
out loss of time. She instantly became a prey 
to anxiety, an excessive anxiety it is certain, for 
she was excessive in most things. 

She wrote to De Gerando to plead her cause 
with Talleyrand ; she solicited the good offices of 
Lucian and Joseph Bonaparte ; and finally she 
wrote a passionate but dignified letter to Napo- 
leon himself. Then she waited, in the midst of 
strangers, and consuming herself with a fiery 
impatience that made every hour of fresh sus- 
pense a torture. She spent the nights sitting up 
with her maid, listening for the tramp of the 
horse which was to bring the gendarme and his 
message. But the gendarme did not arrive ; and, 
worn out with her terrors, Madame de Stael be- 
thought herself of her " beautiful Juliette." That 
loving and devoted person assured her of a kind 


welcome at St. Brice, a place about two leagues 
from Paris. Thither Madame de Stael went, and 
finding there a varied and agreeable society, was 
for the time being cured of her fears. Hearing 
nothing more about her exile, she persuaded her- 
self that Napoleon had changed his mind, and 
she returned with some friends to her own lodg- 
ings at Maffliers. It is probable enough that 
some officious courtier again drew her enemy's 
attention to her ; or perhaps Madame de Stael's 
own letter, in which she spoke of her children's 
education and her father's advanced age, and be- 
trayed in every line her haunting fear of exile, 
enlightened Napoleon as to the tenderest spot in 
which to wound her. Disliking her as he did, 
and irritated by the mere thought of her as he 
seems to have been, it would have been highly 
characteristic of his southern malice to be decided 
in his course by the very prayers that should 
have deterred him. 

However that may be, she was sitting at table 
with her friends one late September afternoon 
when she perceived a rider, dressed in grey, pull 
up at her gate and ring the bell. This prosaic- 
looking individual was the messenger of destiny. 
She felt it at once, although he did not wear the 
dreaded uniform. He was the bearer of a letter 
signed by Napoleon, and ordering her to depart 
within twenty-four hours for any place not nearer 
than forty leagues to Paris. 


Needless to say, Madame de Stael did not sub- 
mit without protest, and represented so energet- 
ically to the gendarme that a woman and three 
children could not be hurried off with no more 
preparation than a recruit's, as to induce him to 
allow her three days at Paris in which to get 

On their way they stopped for a few moments 
at Madame Recamier's, and there found General 
Junot, who, like everybody else, was one of Juli- 
ette's admirers. Perhaps to please the latter, he 
promised to intercede with the despot for her 
illustrious friend ; and he was, as it appears, so 
far successful that Napoleon accorded permission 
for Madame de Stael to reside at Dijon. As soon 
as Madame Recamier received this news she com- 
municated it in a letter to the care of Camille 
Jordan. But Madame de Stael never received it, 
having been driven, as she says, by daily admoni- 
tions from her gendarme — but as Madame Re- 
camier appeared to think, by her own impatient 
agitation — away from Paris to Morfontaine. This 
was the home of Joseph Bonaparte. Probably 
pitying her state of excitement and misery, he 
invited her thither to spend a few days. He was 
just then animated, as far as he dared be, by a 
spirit of opposition to his mighty brother; and 
perhaps — who knows } — was kind to Madame de 
Stael as much for that reason as for any other. 


In any case, nobody in those days appears to have 
been profoundly in earnest except Madame de 
Stael herself. She could not recover either pa- 
tience or peace. She was wretched at Morfon- 
taine in spite of the kindness of her host and 
hostess, because surrounded with officers of the 
Government who had accepted the servitude 
against which she rebelled. She knew that her 
father would receive her, but the thought of tak- 
ing refuge at Coppet again was distasteful to her. 

She had but just left that place, and to return 
thither was to resume habits of which she had 
tired, and to acknowledge herself beaten. Prob- 
ably she longed for a change ; and probably 
enough, also, she was in that morbid condition of 
mind in which to do the simplest and most obvi- 
ous thing is to rob grief of all its luxury. Finally, 
she decided to crave permission through Joseph 
to betake herself to Germany, with the distinct 
assurance that the French Minister there would 
consider her a foreigner and leave her in peace. 
Joseph hastened to St. Cloud for the purpose, and 
Madame de Stael retired to an inn within two 
leagues of Paris, there to await his reply. 

At the end of one day, receiving no answer, 
and fearing (but why } ) to attract attention to 
herself by remaining any longer in one inn, vshe 
sought the shelter of another; and is extremely 
— one cannot really help thinking needlessly — 


eloquent in describing her anguish during these 
self-imposed peregrinations. At last Joseph's 
letter came. He not only forwarded her the 
permission to go to Berlin, but added several 
valuable letters of introduction, and took leave 
of her in the kindest terms. 

Accompanied by her children and Benjamin 
Constant, she started, hating the postillions for 
their boasted speed, and feeling that every step 
taken by the horses was a fresh link in the ever- 
lengthening and indestructible chain of which 
one end was Paris and the other her heart. 

What Constant's feelings were she does not 
say, and speaks of his accompanying her as a 
spontaneous act of friendship. But he had been 
exiled as well as herself ; and although his desire 
to go to Germany had partly determined hers, 
and neither wished to separate from the other, 
there are indications that Constant quitted 
France as reluctantly as his companion. 

Their relations were already varied by alter- 
nate periods of shine and storm ; and although 
her influence over him was still immense, it had 
begun, as was inevitable with such a man, to fret 
him. And probably some doubts that were not 
political, and some sufferings that had their root 
in another cause than exile, played their part in 
the extreme agitation of Madame de Stael's mind 
at this period. 



At Metz Madame de Stael was received in tri- 
umph. The Prefect of the Moselle entertained 
her, parties were given in her honor, and all the 
literary big-wigs of the place hastened to do her 
homage. She there, for the first time, came into 
personal contact with Charles de Villers, with 
whom she had previously corresponded on the 
subject of Kant. Of course she was charmed 
with him, her first impulse invariably being to 
find every clever or distinguished person delight- 
ful. Her friendship with him resembled all her 
friendships. She began by expecting to have in- 
spired as much enthusiasm as she felt, possibly 
a little more, seeing that she was a*voman, and 
such a woman, and exiled to boot. Villers, a 
cross-grained kind of Teuton, had no idea of 
allowing his theories, which were extremely 
sturdy on all subjects, to be spirited away by any 
of Madame de Stael's conversational conjuring 
tricks. They discussed philosophy, and he railed 
sourly at French taste ; and, perhaps by way of 


proving his final emancipation from all such fet- 
ters, he had obtained the companionship of a cer- 
tain Madame de Rodde, whom Madame de Stael 
described, with some asperity, as a "fat German." 

But she separated from the philosopher still 
quite charmed with his appreciation of the good 
and true, and not in the least repulsed by his 
ways. On the contrary, she wrote to him shortly 
afterwards, reproaching him passionately with his 
silence. One can imagine how absurd such exac- 
tions must have seemed to the good Villers, with 
his head full of Kant and Madame de Rodde to 
attend to his comforts ; but the truth was that 
Madame de Stael's mood just then caused her to 
make herself needlessly miserable about every- 
thing. To Mathieu de Montmorency she wrote 
that she was filled with terror, and fancied that 
death must shortly overtake her father, children, 
friends, everybody dear to her. 

She seemed to forget entirely that it was her 
own choice which had taken her to Germany; 
Napoleon had banished her merely from Paris ; 
and there was nothing to prevent her returning 
to Coppet to soothe the last years and enjoy the 
conversation of her venerated father. But this 
did not suit her ; she required a wider intellectual 
horizon and more varied society. 

For many reasons, some of them dependent 
on the political bias of monarchical writers, it has 


been the fashion to proclaim Madame de Stael's 
opposition to Napoleon as inspired by pure hatred 
of despotism. To us this does not seem quite a 
correct version. If it were, Madame de Stael 
would have been a totally different person ; cold- 
er, less impulsively benevolent, less thoroughly 
womanly. All through her life her conduct was 
determined by her feeling towards individuals. 
While professing republicanism she counted, as 
we have seen, hosts of reactionary friends ; the 
claims to consideration of noble names and social 
distinctions weighed powerfully with her; and 
all her love of liberty could not save her from 
being torn by sympathy for every Royalist head 
that fell during the Revolution. Such a catho- 
licity of feeling constitutes a charming woman, 
but not a great politician ; and Madame de Stael's 
liberal instincts and penetrating insight only lent 
force to her hatred of Napoleon, they did not orig- 
inate it. There was a natural antagonism be- 
tween their natures — circumstances increased 
this, and obstinacy on both sides confirmed it — 
and Madame de Stael made the most of a perse- 
cution which, while condemning her to inaction, 
added enormously to her fame. 

That Napoleon in his most transcendent mo- 
ments was great simply by stupendous intellect 
and amazing will ; that in his baser moments he 
was inconceivably callous, cynical, arrogant and 


mean, perhaps few persons in these days will be 
found to deny. But it is overstating the case to 
assert, as has been done, that he persecuted 
Madame de Stael from unmitigated envy of her 
superiority. Much as he resented intellectual 
power in a woman, it is nevertheless most likely 
that what really inspired his action against Ma- 
dame de Stael was her turbulent disposition and 
the restless mind which made her the centre of 
Parisian opposition. As to this opposition itself, 
without any wish to detract from its sublimity, 
it may fairly be asked whether — at the time Con- 
stant began his denunciations, and Madame de 
Stael encouraged them — it was altogether well- 
timed. To declaim against Napoleon's growing 
despotism was perhaps irresistible to indepen- 
dent spirits ; but such declamation necessarily 
remained sterile of results in the state in which' 
France then was. What would these orators 
have substituted for the strong will of a Dictator t 
The greed for place of a Talleyrand t The mystic 
fervor of a Montmorency } The dissolute ambi- 
tion of a Barras .? Between the sanguinary ex- 
cesses of the T err eur Rouge, the lust for revenge 
of the Terreur Blanche, the incorrigible short- 
sightedness and criminal frivolity of the " Cob- 
lentz " faction, the diseased logic of the Jacobins, 
and the frightful collapse of intelligence, morality, 
decency, and humanity that extended from end 


to end of France, it is difficult to understand 
what ruler could have governed it for other ends 
than personal ones. Napoleon sprang armed 
from the ruin of France, as a kind of fatal embod- 
iment of all the evil under which she groaned 
and all the crime that stained her. And yet who 
shall say that his career of conquest, desolating 
as it was, could have been spared from European 
history } It enters as a factor into almost all 
that this closing century has brought us — the 
unity of Italy, the power of Germany, France's 
own awakening to the limitations of her destiny. 
It was not given to any mortal, eighty years ago, 
to foresee all this ; and Madame de Stael, who was 
in most things of a preternatural acuteness, only 
foresaw the coming despotism and its immediate, 
not its ultimate, results. Nevertheless, had her 
bias against Napoleon not been a personal one, 
she might have submitted more quietly to his 
first acts of tyranny, and only protested when his 
insatiable ambition had prostrated France at the 
feet of the nations. She might have done this, 
because she was constantly led away by her feel- 
ings, and could be blind on occasion. That she 
was not more dazzled by Napoleon must be con- 
sidered a lucky accident. 

In Germany the feeling in regard to her was 
not generally favorable. The mightiest minds, 
indeed, admired her great intellect ; and Goethe's 


unwilling homage is the brightest jewel in her 
crown. But it was as a woman that she excited 
a somewhat sour antipathy. Her plaintive little 
friend Madame de Beaumont had called her a 
tourbillon, and Heine has only added a doubtful 
picturesqueness to this description when desig- 
nating her a "whirlwind in petticoats." But as 
a most disturbing element she certainly did intro- 
duce herself into German society. Rahel Varn- 
hagen acidly — it is difficult to help thinking 
ungenerously — echoes the usual complaint of her 
obstreperousness, saying, with striking lack of 
originality, by the way, '* She is nothing to me 
but an inconvenient hurricane." 

Schiller, as is well known, was infinitely more 
magnanimous. He had made up his mind as to 
her kind of intellect before she came. In 1798 
he had already pronounced her to be of an " exalt- 
ed, reasoning, entirely unpoetical nature " ; and, 
although he clung, after seeing her, to his con- 
viction that ** of poetry she had no conception," 
he was obviously surprised and enchanted at her 
native goodness, her healthy simplicity of mind, 
and unaffectedness. To her penetration, bril- 
liancy and vivacity, he does full justice. And if, 
as her book on Germany afterwards showed, his 
statement that " nothing existed for her unless her 
torch could illuminate it," was as misleading as 
are most metaphors, still its descriptiveness ena- 


bles one exactly to understand the particular sort 
of splendor with which Madame de Stael flashed 
through the windings of the German mind. 

Schiller — poor man ! — was quite pathetic over 
her amazing volubility, which left him, with his 
halting French, a hopeless distance behind her. 
It is rather comic to trace the dismay at her 
exhausting personality which pierces through all 
his admiration for, and interest in, her mind. 
To Goethe, who was coquetting at Jena, and 
wished the brilliant stranger to come there to 
him, Schiller later writes : " I saw the De Stael 
yesterday, in my house, and again to-day at the 
Dowager Duchess's. One would be reminded 
of the sieve of the Danaides, if Oknos with his 
donkey did not then occur to one." He fears 
she will have to discover that the Germans in 
Weimar can be fickle, as well as the French, 
unless it strikes her soon that it is time she went. 
To Korner he complained that the devil had 
brought the French female philosopher to tor- 
ment him just in the middle of his new play. 

He found her, of all mortals within his experi- 
ence, ** the most gesticulative, combative, and talk- 
ative," even while admitting that she was almost 
the most cultivated and intellectual of women. 
But he declared that she destroyed all poetry 
in him, and waxed plaintive once again over 
his ineffectual struggles with French. He pro- 


claimed that not to admire her for her fine mind 
and liberality of sentiment was impossible ; and 
he breathed a sigh of the most unfeigned relief 
when she departed. All the Court personages 
felt that they had been having a severe time of 
it; although the bright and petulant Duchess 
Amelia was enchanted in the first instance, and 
wrote to Goethe imploring him to come and study 
the phenomenon. He resisted for a long while, 
but finally arrived — not without a previous sneer 
or two. Madame de Stael was charmed to know 
him — in fact, her days in Weimar passed in a per- 
fect effervescence of delight. While the Ger- 
mans were coldly, sometimes rather snarlingly, 
criticizing her, she was admiring them, Schiller 
she speaks of with the liveliest enthusiasm. 
Their acquaintance began with an animated dis- 
cussion on the respective merits of French and 
foreign dramas. Madame de Stael maintained 
that Corneille and Racine were unsurpassable. 
Schiller, of course, differed ; and managed to 
make her heed his reasons, in spite of his diffi- 
culty in speaking French. His quiet simplicity 
and. earnestness, as well as his originality of mind, 
became instantly manifest to the illustrious stran- 
ger. With her, admiration meant always the 
most ungrudging friendship ; and this was the 
sentiment with which Schiller inspired her for 
the rest of his days. Goethe she found cold, and 


she was characteristically disappointed at his no 
longer displaying the passionate ardor of Wer- 
ther. " Time has rendered him a spectator," she 
says ; yet she admits the universality of his mind 
and his prodigious information when once pre- 
vailed on to talk. It is provoking to think that 
she never saw the best of Goethe, and that this 
disappointing result was — although she was far, 
indeed, from guessing it — her own fault chiefly ; 
for she informed the poet that she intended to 
print his conversation, and of this Goethe had a 
horror. He states as much in a letter to Schil- 
ler, and gives as his reason the sorry figure 
which Rousseau had cut in his correspondence 
— just then published — with Madame de la Tour 
Franqueville and her friend. 

The Dowager Duchess Amelia was a vivacious, 
pleasure-loving, singularly intelligent, and.liberal- 
minded woman, who had governed the duchy dur- 
ing her son's minority admirably, and made allies 
for herself among the best German intellects. 
Thanks to her, her son Karl August had been so 
trained, that, in the midst of a court circle to 
which the light of the eighteenth century had 
barely penetrated, he showed a most manly con- 
tempt for the ideals of mistresses of the robes and 
silver sticks in waiting, and swept all such frip- 
peries away to become the dearest friend of 
Goethe. His duchess (whose courage both ex- 


torted Napoleon's admiration and saved her hus- 
band from further proofs of his ire) was a woman 
of grand character, and as great a contrast, except 
in what was really best in both of them, to her 
lively mother-in-law as could well be imagined. 
She insisted on the most uncompromising observ- 
ance of etiquette, and wore to the last day of her 
life the costume which had prevailed in the years 
when she was young. 

Of this remarkable trio of exalted personages 
it was the reigning duchess whom Madame de 
Stael selected for her friend. Indeed, she never 
mentions the Dowager Duchess in corresponding 
with the daughter-in-law, and in her Allemagne 
dismisses the Grand Duke with a few lines, in 
which she alludes to his military talents and 
speaks of his conversation as piquante and 

From Weimar, Madame de Stael went to Ber- 
lin, with letters from their highnesses of the little 
court to the lovely and charming Queen Louise. 

In a well-known letter to the Grand Duchess 
(the first of their long correspondence), she re- 
cords 2ifete which took place immediately after 
her arrival. It was a masquerade representing 
Alexander's return to Babylon; and the beauti- 
ful queen, of whom Madame de Stael is lost in 
admiration, danced in it herself. To this pageant 
succeeded various costume quadrilles, in which 


Kotzebue appeared as a priest of Mercury, poppy- 
crowned, caduceus in hand, and so ugly and awk- 
ward, that Madame de Stael wonders why her 
imagination was not irretrievably ruined by the 
sight of him. 

One likes to think of her at this court in the 
midst of such famous and distinguished people ; 
the personages so outwardly brilliant, so inwardly 
dull, who surrounded her having vanished down 
the gulfs of Time, her own unique personality 
stands out vividly against the picturesque but 
confused background reconstructed by our fancy. 

At Berlin she first saw and liked August Wil- 
helm Schlegel, destined later to be so unwelcome 
to Sismondi, Bonstetten, and her other friends at 
Coppet. She succumbed at once to the varied 
attractions of his colossal learning, his surprising 
linguistic accomplishments, and his great conver- 
sational powers. She felt that here was a foeman 
worthy of her steel, and she magnanimously over- 
looked his acerbity, his pedantry and vanity. She 
had indeed a royal indifference to the defects of 
great minds. It was only the greatness she cared 

Berlin was destined to be associated with the 
greatest, perhaps the most genuine, grief of her 
life. She left it pleased with her reception, en- 
riched with new friends, new experiences, and 
new ideas. She had been happier there than six 


months previously she would have admitted she 
could ever be again ; far happier than at Coppet, 
which for years past had only been a place where 
she tarried and amused herself as s.he could until 
the moment came for returning to Paris. She 
had treasured up a wealth of conversation for her 
father— all kinds of novel and delightful impres- 
sions which she felt would be listened to by no- 
body so appreciatively as by him ; and she started 
for Vienna, there to glean a little more. But she 
had hardly set foot in Austria when a courier 
brought her the news that her father was danger- 
ously ill. He was, in truth, dead, and the mes- 
senger knew it ; but the fact was withheld, to be 
broken to her later on. She instantly quitted 
Vienna, where, as she expresses it, ''her happi- 
ness had ended," and started homewards. On 
the road her father's death was communicated to 
her. Her grief was overpowering and demon- 
strative toothe last degree. It was not only sor- 
row that she felt, but an overmastering terror, 
for it seemed to her that with her father her last 
moral support* had vanished. Henceforward she 
would bend to the storms of life like a reed. 

On arriving at Coppet, she sank into a condi- 
tion that temporarily resembled dementia. The 
idea that in losing her father her whole existence 
was irretrievably wrecked from its moorings, and 
would drift aimlessly in the future, again filled her 


mind, and this time with greater force. To every 
remonstrance she only answered, " I have lost 
my father." She soon recovered — strangely soon 
as it seemed to many— her old elasticity and fire, 
but a curious secret change was wrought in her 
from the hour of her loss. She showed mystic 
yearnings, and became even a little superstitious. 
She invoked her father in her prayers, and noth- 
ing deeply agreeable to her ever happened with- 
out her saying, '' My father has obtained this for 

One of Necker's latest acts was to write a letter 
to Napoleon begging him to rescind the order for 
Madame de Stael's exile. Needless to say that 
the pathetic request had no effect upon the per- 
son to whom it was addressed. Domestic senti- 
ment at no time appealed strongly to Napoleon, 
and at this period he had almost reached his final 
pitch of unreasoning and arrogant egoism. The 
murder of the Due d'Enghien had hardened all 
his nature, and in preparing to have himself pro- 
claimed Emperor he had kicked away any useless 
rubbish in the shape of scruples that might still 
encumber him. 

Now, when the first germ of decay had begun 
to consume the core of his splendor, his attitude 
towards Madame de Stael itself altered. His 
persecution of her ceased to be a capricious thing 
compounded of spasmodic spite on his side and 


sporadic fears on hers, and became an organized 
system of repression which placed its originator 
in a light all the meaner that the woman against 
whom it was directed rose from this time to a 
new and grander moral altitude. 



Madame de Stael sought to solace her grief 
for her father's death by writing ''The Private 
Life of Necker," a short sketch intended to serve 
as preface to a volume of his fragmentary writ- 
ings. Constant spoke very feelingly of this 
sketch, and pronounced it to be a revelation of all 
that was best in the writer's head and heart. He 
said that all her gifts of mind and feeling were 
here devoted to express and adorn a single sen- 
timent, one for which she claimed the sympathy 
of the world. 

This is all quite true, but it is natural that the 
sketch should affect us less than it did Madame 
de Stael's contemporaries. Necker was a good 
and intelligent man. He had varied talents of 
no common order, and an incorruptibility of char- 
acter which would be rare — given the circum- 
stances—in any age, and, by his admirers, was 
supposed to be especially so in his. But joined 
to all these qualities in him were just the foibles 
which spoil an image for posterity. He had a 


profound compassion for what he considered the 
hardships of his lot. It is touching to read the 
way — so simple, loving, and yet ingenuous — in 
which Madame de Stael records such facts as the 
following : — *' It was painful to him to be old. 
His figure, which had grown very stout and made 
movement irksome to him, gave him a feeling of 
shyness that prevented his going into society. 
He hardly ever got into a carriage when anybody 
was looking at him, and he did not walk where 
he could be seen. In a word, his imagination 
loved grace and youth, and he would say to me 
sometimes, * I do not know why I am humiliated 
by the infirmities of age, but I feel that it is so.' 
And it was thanks to this sentiment that he was 
loved like a young man." 

For the rest, the sketch is one long impassioned 
elegy in prose. One is astonished at the sudden 
creative force of expression in it. It is graphic 
by mere power of words without any help from 

It was not in Madame de Stael's nature to 
mourn in solitude, and we have Bonstetten's 
authority for the fact that the summer of 1804 
was one of the most delightful which he had ever 
passed at the Chateau. Schlegel, Constant, Sis- 
mondi, were all there, as well as Bonstetten, him- 
self, and Madame Neckerde Saussure, now more 
than ever devoted to her cousin. Madame de 


Stael had also a new visitor, Miiller, the histo- 
rian, whose learning was stupendous, and who 
wrangled from morning till night on subjects of 
amazing erudition with Schlegel The mistress 
of the house, although far from being the equal 
of the two combatants in learning, sometimes 
rushed between them with her fiery eloquence, 
like an angel with a flaming sword ; but most of 
the society were reduced to silence. Sismondi 
felt a perfect ignoramus, and talked plaintively to 
Bonstetten of going to Germany, there to drink 
in facts and theories at the source of the new 
intellect In short, the German " Revival " was 
beginning, and Madame de Stael in bringing 
Auguste Schlegel to Switzerland had broken a 
large piece off the mountain of learning, like 
somebody in the fairy tale who carried away a 
slice from the Island of Jewels. 

In October, 1804, Madame de Stael started 
with Schlegel and her three children for Italy, 
and it is to this journey that the world owes 
Corinne. It is said that Schlegel first taught 
Madame de Stael to appreciate art— that is, 
painting, sculpture, and architecture. For music 
she had always had a passion, and both sang and 
played agreeably. But plastic beauty had as yet 
been a sealed book to her, and she had not even 
any great appreciation of scenery. A sponta- 
neous feeling for all these she perhaps never 


acquired. Ste. Beuve, indeed, complains that the 
spot on Misenum where she places Corinne on 
one occasion, was the least picturesque of many 
beautiful points of view. Nevertheless, Italy 
revived her. She found hope and thought and 
voice anew beneath that magic sky. There was 
nothing but the still-abiding sense of loss to mar 
the pleasure of her visit. The diplomatic agents 
of Napoleon abstained from interference with her, 
and Joseph had given her letters introducing her 
to all the best society in Rome. Unlike her own 
Corinne, however, she found it very uninterest- 
ing, and wrote complainingly to Bonstetten that 
Humboldt was her most congenial companion. 
The Roman princes she found extremely dull, 
and preferred the cardinals, as being more culti- 
vated, or more probably more men of the world. 
For the rest, she was received with the liveliest 
respect, and even enthusiasm ; was made a mem- 
ber of the Arcadian Academy, and had endless 
sonnets written upon her. Unfortunately, her 
Dix Aiinees d Exil does not speak of this Italian 
journey, and so, for the impression she received, 
one has to turn to CorinnCy where, of course, 
everything reappears more or less transfigured. 
One would have liked to know the genesis of that 
work, on what occasion it took root, and how it 
grew, in Madame de Stael's mind. How much 
did §he really know of that poor, lampooned. 


insulted, and squint-eyed Gorilla who was the 
origin of her enchanting Sibyl ? How far below 
the surface did she really see of that strange 
Roman world, so cosmopolitan, so chaotic after 
the French invasion, so thrilled with fugitive 
novel ideas, so steeped in time-worn apathy ? It 
would be delightful to know what was the impres- 
sion which Madame de Stael herself produced in 
the few salons Vv^here a little culture prevailed, 
and what was the true notion concerning her in 
that motley and decaying society of belated Arca- 
dians, exhausted cicisbei and abatini lapsed for- 
ever from the genial circles where their youth 
had passed in gossiping and sonneteering. 

Hers must have seemed a curious and forcible 
figure among all those frivolous " survivals "; and 
great and strange, mad and merry as were the 
many foreigners who found their way at various 
times to Rome, probably no more striking couple 
ever appeared there than Madame de Stael and 
Auguste Schlegel. 

As soon as she returned to Switzerland she 
began Corinne. At Coppet some of her old cir- 
cle immediately gathered round her again : Ma- 
dame Necker de Saussure, of course, and Madame 
Rilliet-Hiiber, Schlegel, Constant, and Sismondi, 
assembled to enjoy her society once more. The 
private theatricals in which she delighted were 
again resumed, and such tragedies as Zaire and 


Phedre performed, as well as slight comedies 
composed by the chatelaine herself. Madame de 
Stael was fond of acting ; and although she had 
no special talent, her imposing presence, and the 
earnestness with which she played, made her 
performance a pleasing one — at any rate, to her 

When Corinne was drawing to an end, its 
authoress could no longer resist her old and re- 
curring temptation to return to France. She 
went first to Auxerre ; then, profiting by the 
indulgence of Fouche, who, when it was possible 
(and politic), always shut one eye, she accepted 
an invitation to Acosta, a property near Meulon 
belonging to Madame de Castellane. Some of 
her old friends ventured there to visit her, and in 
peace and reviving hope she completed Corinne. 
It was no sooner published than it was hailed 
with universal applause. 

All this success annoyed Napoleon, possibly 
because it revealed in his enemy greater powers 
than he had hitherto suspected, hence a greater 
influence with all enlightened minds. According 
to some, an article which appeared in the Moni- 
teur attacking Corinne was written by the Impe- 
rial hand. And this first sign of ire was followed 
by a new decree of banishment, which sent Ma- 
dame de Stael back to Coppet. There a few new 
figures came to join the usual set, among them 


Prince Auguste of Prussia, who straightway fell 
a victim to Madame R^camier. For a few weeks 
this love affair introduced a new element of 
romantic, yet very human, interest into the in- 
tensely intellectual life of Coppet. The Prince 
wished Madame Recamier to marry him ; and for 
a short time, either dazzled by the prospect of 
such splendor, or really attracted by her royal 
wooer, she hesitated. But such a step would 
have involved a divorce from M. Recamier. He 
was old ; he had lately lost his fortune ; he had 
always been good to her ; and Juliette made up 
her mind that it would be too unkind to leave 

Some other scenes not altogether literary were 
passing just then in the Chateau. The relations 
between Madame de Stael and Constant, of late 
much strained, had now become constantly 
stormy. Sismondi, some years later, in writing 
to the Countess of Albany, referred to them as 
really distressing, and apparently Madame Re- 
camier was in the flattering but uncomfortable 
position of having to listen to and, as well as she 
could, soothe both parties. 

Constant would have married Madame de Stael, 
but she desired a secret marriage, and he would 
only hear of an open one. It was only in 1808 
he finally put an end to his perplexities by mar- 
rying Charlotte von Hardenberg. He carefully 


avoided telling Madame de Stael of his intention 
beforehand, being still too much under her influ- 
ence to bear her criticisms and possible reproach- 
es with equanimity. 

About November, 1807, Madame de Stael had 
returned again to Germany, accompanied by 
two of her children, by Constant, Sismondi, and 
Schlegel. From Munich she wrote one of her 
characteristic letters to Madame Recamier : — 

" I have spent five days here, and I leave for 
Vienna in an hour. There I shall be thirty 
leagues farther from you and from all who are 
dear to me. All society here has received me in 
a charming manner, and has spoken of my beau- 
tiful friend with admiration. You have an aerial 
reputation which nothing common can touch. 
The bracelet you gave me [this bracelet contained 
Madame Recamier's portrait] has caused my hand 
to be kissed rather oftener, and I send you all the 
homage which I receive." 

In another she significantly remarks : — 

" The Prince de Ligne is really amiable and 
good above all things. He has the manners of 
M. de Narbonne, and a heart. It is a pity he is 
old, but all that generation fill me with an invin- 
cible tenderness." 

This is one of her touching allusions to her 
father, of whom all " good gray heads " reminded 
her. But the Prince de Ligne and Necker were 


two very different people. The former was the 
ideal of 2i grand seigneur, clever, brave, handsome, 
all in a supreme degree ; the descendant of a 
chivalrous race, and as gallant and noble himself 
as any of them. He was extremely witty, and 
quickly achieved the conquest of the Empress 
Catherine when he was sent on a mission to Rus- 
sia in 1782. He followed in her suite through 
the Crimea on the occasion of her famous jour- 
ney there with Joseph H., and his amusing 
account of this expedition is one of his claims to 
literary reputation. The last years of his bril- 
liant life were embittered by the loss of his prop- 
erty, consequent on the French invasion of 
Belgium, and by the death in battle of his eldest 
and best-beloved son. 

Madame de Stael probably enjoyed his soci- 
ety all the more that the Viennese gentlemen 
appeared to her singularly uninteresting. She 
complained of them in her letters to the Grand 
Duchess of Weimar, and also to Madame Reca- 
mier, and declared that she felt the need of a sum- 
mer at Coppet to indemnify her for the frivolous 
monotony of the Austrian capital. She seems 
to have been in an unusually depressed state of 
mind, and recurred perpetually to the hardships 
of exile. 

In April, 1808, shortly before starting again 
for Weimar, she addressed a letter to her former 


friend, the ungrateful Talleyrand, begging him to 
interest himself for the payment of the two mill- 
ions left by her father in the French Treasury. 
She alluded sadly, and at some length, to all her 
sufferings again in this letter, and reminded him 
that he wrote thirteen years previously to her 
from America, " If I "must remain even one year 
longer here I shall die." 

One is not much surprised to divine from sub- 
sequent circumstances that this appeal produced 
no effect. Amiable, and even pathetic as it was, 
Talleyrand was not the man to be moved by it. 
Like Napoleon, to whom he perhaps showed it, 
he would be likely to think that Madame de 
Stael's " exile " was singularly mitigated. It is 
one thing to be proscribed and banished, not 
only from one's own country but from friends 
and fortune ; to wander, as so many illustrious 
refugees have done, a lonely stranger in a foreign 
land, not daring to invoke the protection of any 
authority, and constantly eking out a miserable 
existence by teaching or worse. It is another 
thing to be wealthy, influential, admired ; to be 
the guest of sovereigns, and the honored friend 
of the greatest minds in Europe ; to be sur- 
rounded with sympathy, and followed at every 
step by the homage of a brilliant and cultured 
crowd. Such was the existence of Madame de 
Stael. Her sorrows were great because her fiery 


temperament rebelled against her grief, at the 
same time that her great intellect fed it with lofty 
and lyric thoughts. But her sorrows were of the 
affections exclusively. She never felt the sting 
of the world's scorn, nor knew the bitter days and 
sleepless nights of poverty. If she ever " ate her 
bread with tears," they were not those saltest 
tears of all which are wrung from burning eyes 
by unachieved hopes and frustrated endeavor. 
Every field of social and intellectual activity was 
open to her except the salons of Paris, and those 
were very different under the blight of Napole- 
onic bureaucracy from what they had been even 
during the mingled vulgarity and ferment o£ the 

She returned to Weimar, and had a touching 
meeting with the Grand Duchess, whose recent 
troubles, and the courage she displayed under 
them, had not only endeared her to her subjects 
and her friends, but had won the applause of the 
world. On her way thither she presumably de- 
layed a short while in Berlin, and it must have 
been to that period that Ticknor refers when 
relating a very amusing anecdote in his Life and 
Letters. She asked Fichte to give her in a quar- 
ter of an hour a summarized idea of his famous 
Ego, professing to be, as she doubtless was, en- 
tirely in the dark about it. Fichte's consterna- 
tion may be imagined, for he had been all his life 


developing his system, and intended it to com- 
prehend the universe. Moreover he spoke very- 
bad French, and even if Madame de Stael were 
momentarily silent in speech, we may fancy how 
voluble she looked, and how nervous the pre- 
science of her imminent rapid speech must have 
made the philosopher. However, he made up his 
mind to the attempt, and began. In a very few 
moments Madame de Stael burst out : 

** Ah ! that is enough. I understand perfectly. 
Your system is illustrated by a story in Mun- 
chausen's travels." Fichte's expression at this 
announcement was a study ; but the lady went 
on • ** He arrived once on the banks of a wide 
river, where there was neither bridge nor ferry, 
neither boat nor raft ; and at first he was in de- 
spair. But an idea struck him, and taking hold of 
his own sleeve, he jumped himself over to the 
other side. Now, Monsieur Fichte, is not this 
exactly what you have done with your Ego f " 

This speech charmed everybody except Fichte 
himself, who never forgave Madame de Stael, or 
at least so Ticknor's informant said, and it is 
easy to believe him. 

During the remainder of 1808, and the whole 
of 1809 and 18 10, Madame de Stael remained 
alternately at Coppet and Geneva, working stead- 
ily at the Allemagne. It was only about this 
time that she acquired habits of sustained occu- 


pation. Her father had entertained so strong 
and singular an objection to seeing her engaged 
in writing, that, rather than pain him, she used 
to scribble at odd hours and in casual positions 
— sometimes, for instance, standing by the chim- 
ney-piece. In this way she was able to hide her 
work as soon as he appeared, and thus spare him 
the annoyance of supposing that he had inter- 
rupted her. She talked so continually that it 
was a marvel how she ever wrote at all ; and her 
friends used often to wonder where and how she 
planned her works. But the truth seems to have 
been that they sprang full grown from her brain, 
after having been unconsciously developed there 
by perpetual discussion. 

During the years above mentioned society at 
Coppet, although normally composed as of old by 
Schlegel, Sismondi, Constant (for a time), Ma- 
dame Recamier, and Bonstetten, was varied once 
more by new and interesting visitors. Among 
these was Madame Le Brun, who not only paint- 
ed a portrait of Madame de Stael, but noted many 
things which now afford pleasant glimpses of the 
life at the Chateau. Of course, like everybody 
else who sojourned as a guest at Coppet, she fell 
under the spell of the hostess. Byron himself 
some years later recorded how much more charm- 
ing Madame de Stael was in her own house than 
out of it ; and she seems to have possessed the 


art of dispensing her hospitality, which was royal, 
with as much grace as cordiality. 

Among the new figures in these years at Cop- 
pet were Werner and Oehlenschlager. Both 
were poets and cursed with the irritability of the 
genus, so that their mutual exasperation was 
great, and Madame de Stael had some trouble to 
keep the peace between them. Sismondi in one 
of his letters described Werner as a man of many 
intellectual gifts, who considered himself the 
apostle of Love and bound to preach it in his 
wanderings through the world. Occasionally his 
utterances were a little puzzling to sober-minded 
people, who were too much taken aback by his 
mystical mixtures of passion, sentiment, and 
piety to be always ready with an answer. 

Werner had had a Sturm und Drang period of 
extreme dissipation, had taken to Freemasonry, 
and imbibed, apparently, some of the ideas of the 
Illuminati ; and, besides his mysticism in religion, 
inclined to socialism in politics. After all this 
vagueness of thought, joined to a highly impres- 
sionable and very vivid temperament, it is not 
surprising to learn that he eventually became a 
Roman Catholic priest and rose to great renown 
as a preacher. 

Oehlenschlager has left a spiteful picture of 
Werner, with his nose full of snuff, discussing his 
esoteric doctrines in an execrable patois which 


was intended for French. Both poets, however, 
united in admiring and praising, almost worship- 
ping, Madame de Stael, and she on her side seems 
to have cared little for any peculiarity in their 
habits as long as there was originality in their 

It was during this visit of the two poets at 
Coppet that Karl Ritter appeared for a short 
time on the scene. He enjoyed a great reputa- 
tion in Germany, being considered as the in- 
ventor of the Science of Comparative Geog- 
raphy. He was also a gentle, earnest man, and 
became extremely religious in his old age. He 
records an animated, indeed perfervid and amaz- 
ingly eloquent, speech pronounced before him by 
Madame de Stael in favor of the metaphysical 
origin of religion, and in answer to Sismondi 
who maintained that its basis should be reasoned 
morality. Madame de Stael declared that religion 
was the condition of virtue ; and that without it 
there could be no higher life, by which she meant 
no communion with God. In support of this 
thesis she displayed the most surprising power 
both of analysis and illustration, while her logic 
appearing to Ritter unanswerable, caused the 
discussion, as he avers, to be an epoch in his 
intellectual life. This new interest of Madame 
de Stael in such questions was largely due to the 
ever-growing influence of Madame de Kriidener, 


now irrevocably " regenerate " and rapidly rising 
to fame as a priestess and prophetess, while lead- 
ing a life of the utmost asceticism. She had been 
in Coppet again, and had left there the trail of 
her sacerdotal tendencies. Poor Bonstetten, daily 
growing younger in mind and heart, was comic- 
ally disgusted at the change which was coming 
over the intellectual life at the Chateau. The 
confusion of dogmas prevailing could not console 
him for the fact of there being any dogmas at all. 
Between Catholics, Boehmists, Martinists and 
Mystics, he appeared at times to be quite worn 
out, and attributed the whole revolution to the 
influence of his pet aversion Schlegel. How he 
made this out is not very clear, for the theolog- 
ical spirit was as cosmopolitan in its repre- 
sentatives as varied in its forms. Mathieu de 
Montmorency was a Catholic, somebody else a 
Quietist, a third an Illuminist, while Rationalism 
was left to the doubtful prowess of Baron Voght, 
who was reported by Bonstetten to be as gyra- 
tory in his opinions as a weathercock. 

We now approach an event in Madame de 
Stael's life so well known and so often recounted, 
that it will not be necessary to relate it again in 
detail. This was the suppression of her Alle- 
inagne, Napoleon's crowning act of meanness, 
and a deed which obtained for Madame de Stael 


the entire and unquestioning sympathy of every 
enlightened mind and generous heart. 

Madame de Stael determined, after some hes- 
itation, to publish the work in Paris, after sub- 
mitting it in the first instance to the approval of 
the Imperial Censors. Why she took this unfort- 
unate resolution it is difficult to conceive ; for 
she had been plentifully illuminated with regard 
to Napoleon's spite, and even if all her penetra- 
tion did not enable her to foresee the full lengths 
to which this would carry him, she might, one 
would think, have guessed that the censors in 
Paris would judge her work with the utmost 

However this may be, she took up her abode 
near Blois for the sake of correcting the proofs 
as they issued from the press. She had, before 
leaving Coppet, caused her passports to be made 
out for America, in which country she had prop- 
erty, and whither, for the sake of her children 
she said, she was gradually making up her mind 
to go. One cannot imagine Madame de Stael in 
the New World such as it was in those days ; 
and as she entertained the project for a long 
while, put it off from month to month, and finally 
abandoned it altogether, it is more than probable 
that she never liked it sufficiently to have resolved 
upon it seriously. 

At Blois she established herself first in the 


famous Chateau of Chaumont-sur-Loire, haunted 
by such various memories as the Cardinal d'Am- 
boise, Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de Medici, 
and Nostradamus. But the owner of the house 
shortly returning, she removed to another man- 
sion at Fosse, the home of a M. de Salaberry. 
She had addressed a letter to Napoleon in which 
she presented her work to his notice, craved an 
interview in very respectful terms, and urged on 
his notice the advantage which it would be for 
her sons' career and her daughter's eventual mar- 
riage (Albertine was then thirteen) if she were 
allowed to reside again in the neighborhood of 

While awaiting the answer to this, she gath- 
ered round her a group of her usual friends, 
among them Madame Recamier, Adrien and 
Mathieu de Montmorency, Prosper de Barante, 
and Benjamin Constant. This society amused 
itself with music (an Italian musician, Albertine's 
master, who played the guitar, being of the com- 
pany), and with a quaint invention named La 
petite poste. This consisted in abolishing con- 
versation and substituting for it little notes, which 
were passed from one to the other. A very inno- 
cent amusement ; but either it, or the guitar-play- 
ing, or " Corinne's " famous name made some 
noise in the neighborhood. 

Finally, one evening Madame de Stael went to 


the theatre at Blois, and, on leaving it, was sur- 
rounded by a curious crowd. Some officious 
person communicated this fact, probably with 
various others, some true, some false, to the Min- 
ister of Police, who wrote to the Prefect of the 
department to complain that his master's cele- 
brated foe was the centre of a little court. In a 
short time the blow fell. No answer came from 
Napoleon, but, instead of it, the announcement 
that her book had been seized, that all copies of 
it were destroyed, and that the authoress was to 
leave France within three days either for Amer- 
ica or Coppet. At the same time, the Prefect of 
Loir and Cher demanded the surrender of the 
MS. of the work. Fortunately Madame de Stael 
possessed a rough copy, which she gave him, 
while her son saved the real one. 

She wrote to Savary, Duke of Rovigo (" per- 
mitted," she says bitingly " to hide his name 
under a title "), and represented to him that the 
interval allowed her for her departure was insuf- 
•ficient. She received a reply which has become 
classic for its baseness, its insolence, and its ludi- 
crous arrogance. All the littleness and none of 
the force of Napoleon was reflected from the 
mind of his underling. He told her that she 
need not seek for the cause of her exile in the 
silence regarding the Emperor which she had 
observed in her work, for that no place in it could 


have been found worthy of him ! For the rest, 
the air of France did not suit her, and as for its 
inhabitants, they were not yet reduced to taking 
as models the nations whom she admired. Her 
last work was not French, and it was he (this 
worthy official) who had forbidden it to be printed. 

Savary thus claimed for himself, and not for 
his master, the glory of this precious proceeding ; 
but as nobody suspected him of acting except 
under orders, he blew this trumpet to the desert 

The blow to Madame de Stael was a terrible 
one. Her first impulse was to go to America ; 
but fearing the long sea-voyage for her daughter 
at that season of the year (it was October), she 
once again set her face most reluctantly towards 
Coppet. This place, which she henceforward de- 
scribes as a "prison," was shortly afterwards 
made further distasteful to her by a change of 
Prefect. Monsieur de Barante, who was a friend 
of hers, was removed, and the successor appointed 
to him, M. Capelle, was one of the functionaries 
now turned out by the gross from the Imperial 
mould. He regarded Napoleon as a deity and 
himself as a prophet, and conceived the brilliant 
idea of distinguishing himself by persusiding 
Madame de Stael to write something flattering 
of the Emperor. Naturally he failed ; the mind 
of a bureaucrat prostrate before the feticb of his 


own alarmed idolatry alone could have conceived 
the possibility of success. And naturally, again, 
his failure rankled, and caused him to visit his 
disappointment on the creator of it by numerous 
small vexations. 



Madame de Stael arrived at Coppet in a con- 
dition of despair, which she partially solaced by 
writing to Madame Recamier and thanking her 
again and again for the constancy of her friend- 
ship. Evidently many of her friends had already 
dropped away, or she fancied they had. Perhaps 
she wearied them a little with her lamentations, 
for one knows that silence was never her forte. 
But all at once a happy change came over her. 
Sismondi, writing to the Countess of Albany, 
mentioned the transformation, and spoke of their 
friend with admiration for her new-born but to 
him inexplicable courage. She had given up 
literary work, and no longer alluded to her afflic- 
tions ; and yet, in spite of that, her gaiety was 
great and her conversation as charming and 
sparkling as ever. Sismondi doubtless consid- 
ered that Reason— his beloved Reason was at 
last asserting its sway over ** Corinne's " excita- 
ble imagination. He must have been greatly 
surprised a long time afterwards when he learnt 


that the magician was Love. Years previously, 
when Sismondi had himself been in love in his 
decorous fashion, and had reproached Madame 
de Stael for a want of sympathy in his trouble — 
a want which he had not expected in the author 
of Delphine — she said to him : '* I have never 
loved that I have not felt in myself two persons 
— one who laughed at the other." But when she 
made that answer she was young and restless, 
and, like all great and burning minds, claimed 
from life a destiny too radiant to be ever realized. 
Now she was middle-aged ; she had drunk of the 
waters of bitterness and known some of the tragic 
awakenings of passion; she had experienced an 
immeasurable sorrow in the loss of her father ; 
she had become familiar to satiety with the tri- 
umphs of the world ; and was, as she wrote to 
Madame Recamier, ** wearied of suffering." In 
short the moment had come when the one impe- 
rious cry of her soul was for peace. In such a 
state of mind what seems ridiculous becomes 
possible, and the spirit of mocking youth in Ma- 
dame de Stael, which once could laugh at the 
passionate half of her nature, was buried with 
most of her hopes and almost all of her illusions. 
It was shortly after her return to Switzerland 
that, going to Geneva to spend some little while, 
she-first met Rocca. He was twenty-three, she 
was forty-five; but that disparity of years did 


not prevent his conceiving for her a most roman- 
tic passion. He was extremely handsome — a fact 
to which Frederica Brun and Byron alike bear 
witness, and was further interesting through hav- 
ing been wounded in the war in Spain, and so 
badly that his health was never restored. He 
was the son of a Councillor of State in Geneva, 
and descended from a noble Piedmontese family 
which had emigrated to Switzerland during the 
persecution of the Protestants. He had some 
culture and considerable intelligence ; was even 
something of an author ; and, finally, was a splen- 
did horseman. He was wont to ride a magnifi-- 
cent black Andalusian steed, and performed 
unheard-of feats of jumping and galloping under 
the windows of the house in Geneva where Ma- 
dame de Stael was staying. These varied attrac- 
tions finally proved irresistible to the object of 
his homage, and before the year 1811 a secret 
marriage took place. Why it was a secret is one 
of those mysteries which has never been satisfac- 
torily cleared up. One explanation is that Bo- 
naparte, out of hatred of Madame de Stael, would 
order Rocca, who, of course, was in the French 
army, away on service. But if this had been the 
real reason, it was sufficiently strong to have ren- 
dered any further explanation unnecessary. Nev- 
ertheless, a very good authority, the authoress of 
Coppet et Weimar^ gives two other reasons : one 


that Madame de Stael would " never have con- 
sented to give up the aristocratic name which 
she had made so illustrious" ; the other, that the 
world would have turned such a marriage into 
ridicule. In this connection it is worth while to 
state that Constant has given Madame de Stael's 
unwillingness to change her name as a reason 
why she would not consent to an open marriage 
with him. 

The union with Rocca seems to have been a 
very happy one ; but inasmuch as it passed for 
years in the eyes of everybody for a connection 
of another nature, there is no doubt that it brought 
Madame de Stael into some discredit. Many of 
the guests at Coppet admired Rocca, but Sis- 
mondi, for one, disliked him extremely. Sis- 
mondi, however, was not unfrequently disposed 
to be rather severe on Madame de Stael and her 
guests ; he even carped a little at the lovely Juli- 
ette. " She (Madame R6camier) has put in a 
fleeting appearance here," he wrote in August, 
181 1. " She is full of kindness and graciousness 
towards Madame de Stael, and is not less pretty 
than two years ago, and yet I am glad that she is 
going ; for whenever she is present, all true con- 
versation is destroyed. She always beguiles her 
neighbor into low-toned tete-d-tete talk. Her 
small airs and graces weary me, and her intelli- 


gence — for she is intelligent — in no way profits 
the public." 

Sismondi sometimes visited Madame de Stael 
herself with criticism not less captious, although 
he was generally vanquished in the end by her 
heroism and her charm. During the summer of 
i8ii she was in a very restless and unhappy 
mood, which often drew forth his censure. 

The conviction of the extreme disfavor with 
which Napoleon regarded her was now widely 
spread, and one of its results v/as a real or fancied 
falling-off of friends, which wounded her exceed- 
ingly. To nothing was she so sensitive as to any 
failure of affection, and the ardor with which she 
sought to defend herself from blame was caused 
not so much by offended self-love as by slighted 
feeling of a more amiable kind. Just about this 
time she wrote to Camille Jordan a very charac- 
teristic letter. Its tone was indignant, for Jordan, 
always rather cold and repellent, had evidently 
stung her by some censure of her conduct. 
Apparently also, he had sought to justify himself 
for not coming to see her, for she assured him 
that she had never dreamed of blaming him, nor 
entertained a thought against his loyalty. She 
quivered under a shaft which had struck more 
deeply home, and in one sentence made an allu- 
sion applying apparently to Rocca. She owned 
that being placed, as it appeared to her, on the 


highest pinnacle of moral dignity, she had felt 
some wonder at the fact that Jordan, '* indulgent 
towards the inconceivable conduct of Girando,'% 
should have reserved all his wraih for an unhappy 
woman who, " while resisting all attacks and de- 
fending her children and her talent at the risk of 
happiness, security, and life," had allowed her- 
self to be momentarily touched by the self-sacri- 
ficing chivalry of a young man. Her anger was 
but fleeting, and a few months later she wrote 
as affectionately as ever to Camille, who, perhaps, 
for once had been shaken from his prudent calm 
by her fiery words, and had calmed her by pro- 
testing unaltered regard. 

This year of 181 1 was fruitful of sorrow. 
Mathieu de Montmorency and Madame de Re- 
camier were both exiled immediately after a visit 
paid by them to their illustrious friend. Accord- 
ing to Madame Lenormant, the writer of Coppet 
et Weimar, as well as to Madame de Stael her- 
self, the letter from the Minister of Police which 
conveyed the order of exile to Mathieu de Mont- 
morency distinctly signified that friendship with 
the mistress of Coppet was the cause of his dis- 
grace. Sismondi, however, who showed himself 
incredulous, and to a certain extent unsympathiz- 
ing throughout all these circumstances, when 
writing to the Countess of Albany, was concerned 
to correct such an impression, and declared that 


not only had the Prefect of Geneva and the Min- 
ister of the French Police disclaimed the idea as 
unfounded, but he himself had never seen that 
anybody was in the least compromised by going 
to Coppet. Nevertheless, in a very short time 
Schlegel was ordered to quit the Chateau on the 
preposterous plea that he had pronounced the 
Phoedra of Euripides to be superior to that' of 
Racine ! Madame de Stael went to Aix for the 
sake of her youngest son's health, but at the end 
of ten days was recalled by a letter from the Pre- 
fect, who advised her not to venture more than 
two leagues from Coppet. Very naturally she 
was irritated to the last degree and often deeply 
distressed at all these incidents. The exile im- 
posed on Mathieu de Montmorency and Madame 
Recamier caused her the greatest grief, more 
especially as she never doubted but that unwit- 
tingly she was the cause. She had other causes 
of suffering also in her health at the time, and 
doubtless was far from being as brilliant as of 

Circumstances (she had a' son by Rocca in 
1812) condemned her to an isolation which fret- 
ted her almost beyond endurance ; and Sismondi, 
not possessing the key to the situation, was 
aggrieved at her sombre mood and nervous irri- 
tability. He wrote that he sometimes " bores 
himself " at Coppet (O Ichabod ! ) ; and he was 


induced to take refuge with sundry amiable per- 
sons at Geneva who soothed his wounded self- 

At last Madame de Stael — inconsolable for the 
loss of Schlegei's society, panting to escape be- 
yond the narrow limits of Coppet, where her sons 
had no career before them, and her daughter no 
chance of marrying, and she herself was harassed 
by hints and admonitions from the Prefect at 
every turn — resolved upon escape. She was 
informed through Schlegel, who was in Berne at 
the time, that if she would even now write some- 
thing in praise of Napoleon her fate would be 
considerably mitigated. It is no slight credit to 
her that, agitated and ill as she was, she firmly 
declined. Nothing, indeed, at such a moment 
could have been more courageous than her re- 
fusal, for she was torn with a thousand fears at 
her impending journey. The passport would 
have been an insuperable difficulty, as the per- 
mission to go to America, once accorded, had 
now been withdrawn from her ; entrance into 
Italy was also denied, and the Government was 
determined that she should not take refuge in 

Yet to England she was resolved to go. The 
only route open to her was through Russia and 
Sweden. Through her friend the Grand Duchess 
of Weimar she obtained a passport, which was 


to be handed to her in Vienna. All this took 
months to settle, and it was only on the 23rd of 
May, 1812, that she was at last able to start. 
It was necessary to leave in such a way as not 
to excite the attention of the lynx-eyed Prefect 
of Geneva. 

The eve of her departure she wandered about 
the park of Coppet a prey to the utmost grief. 
She had been unwilling to return there at one 
time, but now she was heart-broken at having to 
bid a long, perhaps a last, farewell to the tomb 
of her father and the scenes associated with his 
memory. To her, both by nature and system, 
such a parting was particularly poignant. 

At 2 o'clock on the afternoon of the 23rd, she 
got into her carriage, announcing that she would 
return for dinner. Only two of her servants were 
in the secret. Albertine, Auguste and Rocca 
were with her ; her second son was to follow in 
a few days, and join her at Vienna with her bag- 
gage. For the present, all the necessaries which 
the travellers absolutely needed were stowed away 
in the pockets of Auguste and Rocca ; Madame 
de Stael and Albertine only carried fans. 

The escape thus ingeniously planned was car- 
ried out with a success that it is quite pleasant to 
read of, even to this moment. The police never 
awoke at all to the fact of the flight until the lug- 
gage followed the fugitives, and then Madame de 


Stael was beyond their reach. History draws a 
veil over the feelings of the Prefect. 

At Berne, Schlegel joined the party, and Au- 
guste de Stael separated from it, in order to return 
to Coppet to see after things there. The travel- 
lers pushed on, but, because of Madame de Stael's 
health, in no great haste, through Switzerland 
and the Tyrol. Her one haunting fear all this 
time was that in Bavaria an agent of the French 
Government might have preceded her with an 
order for her arrest. The abject subservience 
of the German Governments at that time to 
Napoleon made it very likely that in such a case 
passports would be so much waste-paper. 

Vienna was reached in safety, and there Ma- 
dame de Stael at first determined to remain three 
weeks, while a courier was despatched to Wilna 
to obtain the Russian passport from the Emperor 
Alexander. The first ten days of her sojourn 
were marked by cloudless pleasure. Security 
had returned to her ; and, after her late repres- 
sion, varied chiefly by the Prefect of Geneva's 
solemn exhortations, it was a real delight to find 
herself in the midst of a society where Napoleon 
was frankly abused. But the Emperor and Em^ 
press of Austria were at Dresden, and the official 
mind, left to itself, soon became frightened at 
the idea of sheltering the dangerous authoress. 
Spies were stationed at her door, and cropped up, 


like poisonous fungi, with silent rapidity along 
her path. Moreover, an order had arrived for the 
arrest and return of Rocca as a French officer — ' 
the fact of his wounds and inability to serve being 
waived in the interests of persecution. At this 
point one pauses to ask why, after all, Madame 
de Stael herself was not arrested. There seems 
but little doubt that the obsequiousness of the 
Austrian police would have been equal to the 
task. Perhaps Napoleon shrank from the odium 
of such a proceeding ; perhaps he was, in reality, 
rather glad to be rid of Madame de Stael. This 
would agree with a well-known conversation 
which he had held four years previously with 
Auguste de Stael, who, going to him to plead for 
his mother's recall, was told, with insolent, good- 
humored contempt, that the whole of Europe, 
except France, was open to her ; that she would 
not be imprisoned, as then she might have some 
cause to complain, but that she alone could be 
unhappy when allowed to wander at will through 
every capital of Europe except Paris. 

But if this explanation be accepted, it becomes 
difficult to account for the later persecutions of 
Madame de Stael at the hands of the French and 
Swiss police. Could it be that Savary and his 
underlings, through excess of zeal, interpreted 
their instructions with liberal severity and that 
Napoleon was not responsible for every Individ- 


ual act, but only for the angry hatred which 
promised approval of each and all of them ? 

However this may be, Madame de Stael's fears 
were not long in reasserting themselves. Too 
impatient to wait for the passport, she started 
with her son and daughter for Galicia, having 
extracted from a friend the promise of hurrying 
after her as soon as the expected paper arrived. 
In her Memoirs she admits that this was a mis- 
take ; for at Vienna she had friends to intercede 
in her favor, while in Galicia there was no shield 
between herself and the servility towards France 
of inferior officials. As a consequence she was 
driven along her route by the unceasing admoni- 
tions to " move on " of the police. Her immedir 
ate goal was Lanzut — the home of her friends 
Prince and Princess Lubomirski. Here she was 
to meet Rocca, who had also proceeded on his 
way, but disguised. At some point of the road 
her passport reached her. This was a ray of 
light ; and a letter from Madame Recamier, which 
overtook her somewhere near Olmutz, was 
another. But, as a rule, her sensations were all 
gloomy. The discomforts of her journey through 
such a country and under such circumstances 
increased her sadness, to which the finishing 
touch was put by the aspect of the desolated 
countries, and of the overtaxed, starving popula 
tions withering beneath the Napoleonic blight, 


and mingling curses on the oppressor with 
prayers to heaven for relief. 

These tragic pictures were ludicrously, but by 
no means reassuringly relieved by the sight of 
placards, in the various towns where the pass- 
ports had to be examined, which ordained that 
'^Madame de Stael was to be submitted, wherever 
she appeared, to the surveillance of the police ! 

At Lanzut she had been informed that she was 
not to stay more than twenty-four hours. This, 
however, was previous to her receiving the Rus- 
sian passport. With that to show, she hoped for 
more indulgence. 

The hope was vain, for at Lanzut a police agent 
presented himself, having received orders from 
his chief, the Governor of the district, to see that 
Madame de Stael did not remain more than eight 
hours at the Lubomirski's Chateau. And when 
she left, he followed her carriage in a caleche, 
thus causing her much alarm lest Rocca, on join- 
ing them, should be recognized. 

Fifty leagues of Austrian territory had still to 
be traversed. The police agent, who is described 
as carrying out his instructions with a most vex- 
atious pertinacity, quitted the travellers at the 
limit of his " circle " ; but Madame de Stael says 
that grenadiers were still found posted along the 
route to observe hei*, and she did not breathe 
freely until she found herself on Russian terri- 


tory. Even there she could not allow herself to 
feel quite secure, for Napoleon's huge army- 
destined by its apparent power and its oncoming 
doom to typify the falling might of France — was 
hastening by forced marches to Moscow; and 
Madame de Stael, to avoid meeting it, had to 
reach St. Petersburg by a circuitous route. Her 
terror of being arrested and imprisoned still abode 
with her ; she was evidently convinced that the 
Emperor was furious with her for having escaped 
his clutches ; and she began seriously to consider 
what she would do if any portion of the army 
threatened to overtake her. Her plan was to 
hasten on to Odessa, and thence proceed to 
Greece and Constantinople. 

Fortunately, her companions succeeded in per- 
suading her that she could travel by post much 
faster than an army ; and partially calmed, she 
at last gave herself up to some enjoyment of the 
scenes and people around her. Her Dix Aiinees 
d'Exil, always vivid, becomes from this point a 
charming book. She is a little too optimistic, 
and indulges, as usual, too much in generaliza- 
tion, but seizes on salient points with swiftness, 
and describes them with remarkable force. 

She was delighted with her reception by the 
nobles and the Imperial family. Of the Czar she 
speaks with a fervent admiration that later gen- 
erations have not shared. He had the facile 


amiability and conventional philanthropy of a 
sovereign who finds his benevolent theories so 
constantly crossed by circumstances as to release 
him, in most instances, from the responsibiUty of 
applying them. But any promise of political 
reform and any appeal to general principles of 
excellence found so ready a response in Madame 
de Stael's own heart that, especially where a mon- 
arch spoke, she ceased to be severely critical. 

According to Galiffe, she met in Russia with 
immense social success, and enchanted every- 
body. He, personally, found her much improved 
since the days of her brilliant, but too self-assert- 
ing youth. 

Stein was struck with her air of simplicity and 
goodness, and sought to convey her great unaf- 
fectedness of manner by saying that ''she gave 
herself no trouble to please " — quite a man's 
judgment on a woman, and curiously inaccurate 
as a necessary consequence. Madame de Stael 
was so intensely interested in every new person 
who appeared to her at all distinguished, that she 
must always have cared supremely to please. 
But what Stein probably meant was that she had 
none of the airs and graces of worldly coquettes ; 
and very often, when launched in conversation, 
she must have been more bent on convincing than 

Madame de Stael passes over in her Memoirs 


a scene at the theatre, during her visit to St. 
Petersburg, which wounded her deeply, and is 
related by Arndt. She went with her son and 
somebody else to the " Theatre Franpais," to see 
Racine's Phedre. Scarcely was she seated, when 
somebody in the pit denounced her and her com- 
panions as French. Instantly the people rose 
and clamored for them to be turned out. The 
performance was stopped, the actors decamped, 
and poor Madame de Stael, sobbing with indig- 
nation and grief, was led away. Even then she 
felt the insult chiefly as levelled at Racine, and 
repeated incessantly, *' Oh ! les barbares, les bar- 
bares 1 Oh, moil Racine!''' Arndt was rather 
astonished at her taking such a scene so much to 
heart ; but, on reflection, arrived at the conclu- 
sion that German women might be the better for 
a little of the same passionate patriotism. 

But unpleasant incidents during her stay in the 
Russian capital seem to have been few. She vis- 
ited several institutions, was received everywhere 
with politeness and cordiality, and revelled again, 
as she had done in Vienna, in listening to the 
free expression of sentiments that agreed with 
her own. Events, however, were progressing 
rapidly, and, in spite of the engagement never 
to sign a peace entered into by the Czar with 
Bernadotte at Abo, the battle of Borodino and 
the taking of Moscow filled most people with dis- 


may. Madame de Stael, always easily alarmed, 
thought that the moment had arrived when she 
could no longer remain in Russia with safety, 
and she set her face towards Sweden, en route for 
England ; thus quitting St. Petersburg a few days 
too soon to receive in all its force the electric 
shock of learning that Moscow was fired. At 
Abo, where she was to embark for Stockholm, 
she met Bernadotte, now Prince Royal of Swe- 
den, whom she had formerly known in Paris as 
an habitue of her own and Madame Recamier's 
salon. Of course he admired the lovely Juliette, 
and hastened to inquire after her with an interest 
which Madame de Stael straightway conveyed in 
a letter to her friend — a letter worded, however, 
with a caution that reveals the inconceivable dif- 
ficulty even of private correspondence in those 
stormy days. 

At Stockholm she was welcomed, according 
to her son, with " perfect kindness " ; and as she 
was notoriously enthusiastic about Bernadotte, 
whom she unhesitatingly pronounced to be "the 
hero of the age," it is probable that he honored 
her with a great deal of his confidence. Galiffe 
(author of Uun Steele a r autre), who had access 
to her correspondence from Sweden with J. A. 
Galiffe in St. Petersburg, was of opinion that her 
influence had a large share in determining Ber- 
nadotte to declare himself against Bonaparte. 


She dedicated her Reflexions stir le Suicide to 
the Prince in a very complimentary preface, in 
which she compared herself and her children as 
seeking his protection in the same way as Ara- 
bian Shepherds take shelter from a storm *' under 
a laurel " : and went on to assure him that his 
public life had been signalized by all the virtues 
which claim the admiration of thinkers, and she 
encouraged him to persevere and remind the 
world of that which it had entirely forgotten, 
namely, that the highest reason teaches virtue. 
In contrast to all this praise, it is piquant to learn 
that BernadottC' — like so many other practically- 
minded people — had his little grumble at his illus- 
trious guest, and talked of the "inconceivable 
preoccupation with self," which by this time had 
led Madame de Stael to see in every political 
move of Napoleon the beginning of some new 
measure against herself. 

Her oft-professed anxiety about her sons' 
future was allayed by the Prince Royal's offer to 
interest himself in Auguste's diplomatic career, 
while Albert was to enter the Swedish army. 

One might wonder why this obvious solution 
of her difficulties had not presented itself sooner 
to Madame de Stael, were it not evident that she 
had consciously or unconsciously made the most 
of every circumstance which could heighten the 
apparent hardship of her lot. 



After quitting Sweden Madame de Stael went 
to England. Some eighteen years or so had 
passed since she had wept in the lanes at Mickle- 
ham at the thought of separating from the charm- 
ing colony at Juniper Hall. Her heart was still 
almost as young as in those days ; the vivid flame 
of enthusiasm for all that was good still burnt as 
brightly in her soul. If her spiritual horizon had 
widened, and a fervent if rather vague religious 
sentiment had succeeded to her unquestioning 
faith in men — that was almost all the change in 
her. For her nature was a singularly homoge- 
neous one, and growth, while widening and deep- 
ening it, did not render it more complex. 

Her reception in English society was marked 
by all the enthusiasm w^hich we are accustomed 
to lavish on illustrious foreigners. She was 
mobbed at routs and assemblies, and ladies 
mounted on chairs and tables to stare at her. 

She took up her abode at 30, Argyll Place, Re- 
gent Street, a house now a bathing establishment. 


It was here that she received the mixed but bril- 
liant society which Byron declared reminded him 
of the grave, inasmuch as all distinctions were 
levelled in it ! 

These social meetings formed her protest 
against the enormous and overcrowded gather- 
ings which were dignified then, as now, with the 
name of "society" in London, and where Ma- 
dame de Stael found that 'all intellectual enjoy- 
ment was smothered by sheer force of numbers. 
She was willing enough to admit that clever men 
and women in England were transcendentally 
interesting when caught in sufficiently small 
groups to make rational conversation possible ; 
but declared that all qualities of mind were anni- 
hilated in the crowds, where the only superiority 
necessary was physical force to enable one to 
elbow one's way along. 

Byron and Madame de Stael became very good 
friends, although she rated him about his conduct 
in love ; and he laughed, with quiet malice, at 
many of her peculiarities. One of his favorite 
diversions — or, at least, so he said — was to plague 
her by declaring that he did not believe in Na- 
poleon's "persecutions." Nothing made her 
more angry, he declared, inasmuch as she was 
proud of the danger, which, as she believed, 
threatened Napoleon's Government from her elo- 
quence and her fame. Byron, in his Conversa- 


tions with Lady Blessington, told one or two 
stories of " Corinne," more diverting probably 
than veracious, and complained of her over- 
whelming declamation (as distinguished from 
talk), her tendency to metaphysical subtleties, 
her extraordinary self-complacency, and the 
strange simplicity which caused her to be per- 
petually mystified. But he admitted that she 
was " a fine creature with great talent and many 
noble qualities" ; and he loudly proclaimed her 
immeasurable superiority to every woman with 
pretensions to literary fame in England. He 
even found several things to admire in her 
appearance, which in a man of his taste was a 
very precious testimony, and might have consoled 
Madame de Stael, had she only known of it, for 
those personal defects which were said to aflfiict 

The person who in all England appears to have 
been the best match, conversationally, for Ma- 
dame de Stael was Sir James Mackintosh, who, 
perhaps, gave the best of all descriptions of her 
when he said, " She is one of the few persons 
who surpass expectation. She has every sort of 
talent, and would be universally popular if, in 
society, she were to confine herself to her infe- 
rior talents— pleasantry, anecdote, and literature, 
which are so much more suited to conversation 
than her eloquence and genius." At another 


time he remarked : " Her penetration was cer- 
tainly extraordinary, with an air of apparent occu- 
pation in things immediately around her." He 
recorded, not always approvingly, some of her 
sweeping judgments, as for instance, that "Po- 
litical Economy was prosaic and uninteresting," 
and that " Miss Austen's novels were common- 

Her stay in England was saddened, although 
apparently not very deeply so, by the violent 
death of her younger son. Byron's flippant allu- 
sion to this tragic event has brought him into 
much disrepute. " Madame de Stael," he wrote, 
" has lost one of her young Barons, who has been 
carbonaded by a vile Teutonic adjutant. . . . 
* Corinne ' is, of course, what all mothers must 
be, but will, I venture to prophesy, do what few 
mothers could — write an essay upon it. She can- 
not exist without a grievance and somebody to 
see or read how much grief becomes her." All 
these epigrammatic previsions turned out to be 
apparently unfounded ; for there is no proof that 
Madame de Stael mourned her son with anything 
approaching to the passion with which she had 
grieved for her father. Sismondi, indeed, always 
censorious, is rather severe on what he is pleased 
to consider her want of maternal feeling ; and, as 
she was never known to hide her sentiments, it is 
only fair to conclude that comparative silence 


meant comparative insensibility. Albert de Stael 
was very high-spirited and impetuous, and rather 
wild. Judging from a severe and somewhat self- 
righteous epistle addressed to him on one occa- 
sion by his mother, he had many of the faults that 
irritated, and none of the qualities that pleased 
her. Auguste and Albertine, inspired by their 
adoring veneration, presumably tried to mould 
their tastes and pursuits by hers ; but Albert 
appears to have been different — for his mother 
reproaches him with remaining unmoved by her 
own intellect, the dignity of his brother, the charm 
of his sister, and the talents of M. Schlegel ! 
She assures him that he is unfit to appreciate 
the mother whom he possesses, and very charac- 
teristically requests to be told of what service it 
has been to him to be " the grandson of Necker." 
Neither the invocation of this august memory, 
nor the general drift of the arguments, strike one 
as happily chosen for moving a thoughtless lad 
in his teens, who was probably drawn towards his 
brother and sister by other reasons than their 
respective dignity and charm, and was more than 
likely to be secretly bored by the disquisitions of 
the learned Schlegel. However this may be, the 
letter gives the full measure of the contempt 
which Madame de Stael could feel for folly and 
frivolity ; and, if those were the distinguishing 
characteristics of Albert, it is very comprehensi- 


ble that, the first pangs of natural grief overcome, 
his loss would not leave a great void in her active 

In the autumn of 18 13 L Allemagne was pub- 
lished. It appeared in London, and straightway 
caused the greatest ferment known for a long 
while in the literary world. The circumstances 
under which it saw the light — the social position, 
sex, and history of its author — and its own intrin- 
sic merits, combined to make it an event. It is 
notorious how much Sir James Mackintosh and 
Byron admired it ; and articles concerning it, crit- 
ical and laudatory, poured from the European 
press. Goethe admitted that no previous writer 
had so largely revealed the riches of German lit- 
erature to the intelligence of an unappreciative 
generation ; and although the great Teutonic 
race was not fully satisfied with the work at the 
time, and has since become somewhat captious 
regarding it, the talent which it displayed has 
never been called in question. By a sufficiently 
striking coincidence the publication of U Alle- 
magne took place in the same month as the battle 
of Leipzic. Only a brief period then elapsed be- 
fore Napoleon abdicated, and Madame de Stael, 
her splendid and triumphant exile terminated, 
was enabled once more to re-enter the gates of 
beloved but, alas ! humiliated Paris. She was 
far too patriotic not to entertain saddened feel- 


ings on seeing the streets of the capital filled 
with soldiers in German, Russian and Cossack 
uniforms ; for while rejoicing in the overthrow 
of Napoleon, she mourned the tarnished glory of 
the French arms. 

She was received with the utmost cordiality by 
Louis XVIII. , and her salon quickly became the 
rallying-ground for all the brightest intellects of 
France. It is interesting to read that Talley- 
rand — the supple, silent, time-serving Talleyrand 
■ — was among her guests. She forgave him, of 
course, for his long oblivion of her old claims on 
his friendship ; but not more thoroughly, in all 
probability, than he forgave himself. To Paris 
had returned the Abbe de Montesquion, Lally, 
Tollendal, Lafayette. How changed were the 
times since the latter had hurried thither to plead, 
and plead in vain, for his imprisoned King ; 
since the Abbe had waited in disguise on the 
high road for Madame de Stael to arrive in her 
carriage and convey him out of France ; since 
Lally, " the fat-test of susceptible men," had 
brought his eloquence and sensibility to help in 
enlivening the sylvan glades of Mickleham. 

Madame Recamier had returned and Constant, 
at the ripe age of forty-eight and married for the 
second time, was so in love with her as to resent 
any allusion to the past which could divert him, 
even momentarily, from his all-absorbing passion. 


Madame de Kriidener, worn and wasted with 
sybilline fervor, had commenced her rehgious 
gatherings, and the Czar was drawn daily within 
the circle of her spells, while Madame Recamier 
was banished from it because her beauty could 
still claim glances that were vowed to heaven. 
Constant, going once, never went again ; perhaps 
because Juliette was wanting ; perhaps because 
such mystic utterances as fell from the inspired 
priestess's lips were too vague to find an echo in 
his passion-tossed soul. To Paris also had come 
Bonstetten, younger than ever in spirit, and hope- 
ful, for all his burden of years. 

The dawn of the new era — so quickly clouded 
for more serious and prescient souls than his — 
filled him with delight. He was brighter and 
more contented now than he had been in youth ; 
the world seemed a better place to him, and he 
almost wondered how anybody could be sad in a 
universe so full of new ideas and dazzling Intel- 
lectual possibilities. 

Besides all these interesting figures, other and 
more splendid, if not more illustrious, personages 
crowded Madame de Stael's salon. Thither came 
the Czar, so chivalrous and sympathetic in these 
days ; thither came her old friend the Duke of 
Saxe Weimar; and Wellington presented him- 
self to be received with the utmost cordiality, and 


to inscribe himself on the long list of Madame 
Recamier's admirers. 

At first Madame de Stael's heart beat high 
with patriotic hopes. She had become monarch- 
ical in her feelings again, and expected great 
things for France from the liberal disposition of 
the King. She exerted herself quite in her old 
way to talk over dissidents and reconcile malcon- 
tents ; for her one longing was that the new con- 
stitution of France might be made on the pattern 
and informed with the spirit of England. But 
she was not slow to discover how ill-founded were 
such aspirations. Egotism stalked through the 
exhausted land — egotism under various forms and 
professing various creeds ; now wearing the supei^- 
annuated uniform of the Maison Rouge ; now 
decorated with the medals conferred by Napo- 
leon ; now prating of old services before the emi- 
gration ; now professing a servile repentance for 
base obedience to Bonaparte. They were but 
differences in the mask after all ; yet over these 
differences men wrangled, and meanwhile the 
poison of a deadly indifference crept through the 
veins of France. Madame de Stael saw all this 
and felt it with a passionate regret. In the last 
volume of her Considerations she shows how 
everything was accorded in the letter, only to be 
constantly violated in the spirit. She deplored 
the irreconcilable folly of the emigres ; the abject 


cringing of converted Bonapartists, who only 
cared for power ; and the disastrous reactionary 
influences which hampered the action of the 

She returned for the summer to Coppet — a 
very welcome refuge to her now that she went 
thither of her own free will. Her health was 
beginning to fail about this time, while that of 
M. Rocca gave her constant anxiety. Originally 
she had been blest, if not with a splendid consti- 
tution, at least with a royal disdain of physical 
influences. She had felt neither heat nor cold, 
and spoke even with a certain impatience of 
invalid considerations. But she had lived at 
such high pressure intellectually from her very 
earliest years ; had thought, felt, talked, and done 
so much, that her existence could not be counted, 
like most people's, by years. In the sense of 
accumulated efforts and results it had been a very 
long life, and the expenditure of nervous energy 
so constantly kept up was beginning to tell at 
last. Even Bonstetten, the optimist, saw a 
change in her when in July, 18 14, he visited her 
at Coppet. She was, indeed, very depressed in 
spirits ; but he appeared to allude only to a phys- 
ical alteration, for he declared her to be as bril- 
liant and good as ever. 'He might have added as 
indefatigable. She found somebody to translate 
Wilberforce's work on the Slave Trade, and wrote 


a preface to the French edition. Also she pub^ 
lished, in pamphlet form, an appeal for Abolition 
addressed to the Sovereigns met together at that 
time in Paris ; and she was busy with her work, 
Considerations, of which the first tv/o parts alone 
were eventually revised by herself. 

In July, from Coppet, she wrote a characteristic 
letter to Madame Recamier, telling what diffi- 
culty she experienced in keeping up the fine love 
of solitude, which had beguiled her momentarily 
into seeking that picturesque and sacred but 
monotonous retreat. " My soul is not sufficiently 
rural," she writes. "I regret your little apart- 
ment and our quarrels and conversations, and all 
that life which is yours." In this sturdy love of 
streets Madame de Stael resembled Dr. Johnson 
and, perhaps, if the truth were known, she resem- 
bled all good talkers. 

She returned to Paris in the winter of 1814-' 
15, and, conscious that her strength was failing, 
she became extremely anxious to marry her dar- 
ling daughter to some man who would be worthy 
of her. Her circumstances had been recently 
much improved by the repayment from the Treas- 
ury of the two millions which Necker had left 
there. Such wealth, joined to her own brilliant 
social position, entitled her to look out for a good 
parti for Albertine ; but she was resolute that the 
match should be a happy one. Her ideal of felic- 


ity was conjugal love. She preached, indeed, a 
code of wifely submission that would seem very 
insipid to some emancipated damsels in our days, 
and was perhaps a little too perfect to be possi- 
ble. But she put into it all her own rare faith in 
good, and often laughingly declared that " she 
would force her daughter to make a marriage of 
the heart." 

In the midst of these amiable preoccupations, 
and while enjoying once again the delight of social 
intercourse, unhampered by foreign modes of 
speech and thought, and untroubled by the irrita- 
tion of exile, Madame de Stael was still haunted 
by a foreboding of evil. Such presentiments 
were very common with her. She had the quick, 
indefinable instinct of imaginative minds, and felt 
that subtle vibration of events which precedes, 
or perhaps causes, change in them. Probably 
she hardly knew what she anticipated ; and yet, 
when the news of Napoleon's escape from Elba 
arrived, it seemed as if the expected disaster 
could only be that. An hour after she met M. 
de la Valette, and said to him : " If Bonaparte 
triumph, liberty is lost ; and if he be beaten, our 
national independence is over." 

A few days of utter consternation followed — a 
pause of bewildered, incapable silence, through 
which, as Chateaubriand so graphically says, 
*' the sound of Bonaparte's advancing footsteps 



echoed." Then came the news of one town and 
province after another rallying round the stand- 
ard of the resurgent conqueror. Ney departed, 
vowing to bring back his former master in an 
iron cage ; and the vain boast, so quickly yet not 
ludicrously disproved, inspired as little confidence 
as it deserved. 

The Court prepared for ignominious flight, 
and Madame de Stael had no choice but to follow 
its example. But a few months previously she 
had by chance become aware of a conspiracy 
against Napoleon's life, and, for all her hatred of 
him, had been so moved by the menace of peril 
to her ancient and implacable foe, that she had 
found means to despatch a warning to him. Yet 
now, when she heard of his return, all her terror 
of him revived in its pristine force, bringing back 
with it the flood of agitated imagination which 
had so long poisoned her life. 

Villemain has left a record of the evening of 
the 1 8th March 1815, which he passed in the 
salon of the Countess Rumford, and where he 
met Madame de Stael. Several famous, and to 
us now famihar, personages were present— Lay- 
fayette, Constant, Jancourt, Cuvier, Sismondi, 
and Lemercier among others. Every moment 
somebody arrived with news of the advancing 
hero. Madame de Stael came late, and instantly 
attracted the general attention to herself. She 


was overwhelmed with sadness, but more for 
France even than for herself. She had been at 
the Tuilleries, and found that there all hope of 
resistance was abandoned. Her own mind was 
made up for flight, yet she urged Madame de 
Rumford to remain, showing that she considered 
Napoleon's hatred of herself to be inextinguisha- 
ble and as active as ever. In point of fact, Na- 
poleon's earliest care, on reaching the capital, 
was to express his regret at her departure. It is 
very unlikely that he would have' molested her in 
any way had she remained ; but it was ordained 
that, to the last, he should make her suffer even 
more in imagination than in reality. She urged 
Madame Recamier to escape with her, for, Juli- 
ette's prescription never having been formally 
revoked, Madame de Stael considered her danger 
as great as her own. But Madame Recamier, 
more calm, refused. With her remained also 
Benjamin Constant, although he also was admon- 
ished by Madame de Stael to seek safety in 
another land. His career during the Hundred 
Days is well known. He began by attacking 
Napoleon violently, then had an interview with 
him, was fascinated, converted, appointed a coun- 
cillor of state, and helped to edit the Acte Addi- 
tioiinel. Another convert was the sober-minded 
Sismondi, and several people have asserted, on 
the authority first of an English editor, and then 


of M. Thiers, that the great, the irreconcilable 
** Corinne " herself, gave in a tardy but complete 
adhesion. Ste. Beuve endorsed the error, and 
based his belief upon the style of an unsigned 
note in French found among Lord Castlereagh's 
posthumous papers, and attributed by Lord Lon- 
donderry's secretary to Madame de Stael. This 
letter was supposed to have been written at Cop- 
pet and forwarded to Mr. Crawford, the Ameri- 
can Minister in Paris, in order that he might take 
it to London. Its object was to inspire English 
statesmen with the writer's own belief in Napo- 
leon's new-found sincerity, and to recommend his 
government to their support. 

A comparison of dates shows, however, that 
such a letter, if despatched from Coppet, could 
only have reached Paris twenty-four hours after 
Mr. Crawford's departure, and Thier's assump- 
tion that Madame de Stael remained in Paris 
during the Hundred Days is disproved by her 
correspondence from Switzerland with Madame 
Recamier. Finally, and again according to 
Thiers, Sismondi's conversion was a result of 
Madame de Stael's own change of views. But 
this also appears quite untenable, inasmuch as 
Sismondi himself bears testimony to her resent- 
ment against Napoleon, strengthened, as he says, 
" to a blind and violent hatred." This is the nat- 
ural language of a person who has veered about 


of another person who has not, and the expres- 
sion occurs in a letter of Sismondi's written from 
Coppet a short time after Waterloo, and when he 
had gone to the chateau in some doubt as to the 
nature of the reception there awaiting him. He 
had been much relieved to find his hostess as 
cordial as ever. Madame de Stael, indeed, never 
seems to have willingly or spontaneously given 
up any friend whom she had once admitted to the 
title. PoUtics are apt to envenom the most inti- 
mate relations, but they left no bitterness in her 
great and gentle soul. Alas ! the happy days at 
Coppet were numbered now for most of those 
whom we have seen congregating there through 
so many exciting summers. 

Madame de Stael delighted in the exercise of 
a generous hospitality. Nobody ever seems to 
have managed her business affairs better than 
she did, and among the few apparent contradic- 
tions of her transparent nature was the spirit of 
order in which she dealt with life, as soon as the 
things presented to her consideration were hard 
facts and not sentiments. In all administrative 
matters she had the capacity of a true French- 
woman, and, while systematic and careful, was 
the least avaricious of women. 



After Waterloo, Madame de Stael did not 
return to France. The thought of the second 
occupation by foreign troops was odious to her, 
and, besides this, she feared the outbreak of reac- 
tionary feelings, and foresaw a political condition 
in which her pure and ideal liberalism would be 
equally unwelcome to all parties. 

Rocca's state of health finally induced her to 
go to Italy. From Milan she sent a letter to 
Madame Recamier, which is interesting a^ show- 
ing how little her fine mind and noble heart were 
in harmony just then with the condition of affairs 
in France. 

You are kind enough to say to me," she 
wrote, *' that I should do better to be in Paris. 
But no, indeed, I should not care to see some 
forms of liberty (franchises) * accorded ' to the 
people, for it is my creed that nations are born 
free. I should say unfashionable things and 
make enemies unnecessarily. When all is 
arranged for Albertine's marriage, I shall lead a 



solitary life in Paris ; but at present I do well, 
believe me, to have myself represented by Au- 
guste. Like you, I think well, and better than 
ever, of Victor de Broglie, and I shall be very 
glad of the marriage if nothing goes against it. 
I am also of your way of thinking in regard to 
Madame de Kriidener. She is the herald of a 
great oncoming religious epoch. Speak of me to 
her, I beg, as of a person quite devoted to her. 
. . . . M. Rocca's health still gives me anxiety. 
I have never recovered any happiness since Bo- 
naparte disembarked. 

Madame de Stael had been very happy in her 
marriage with Rocca, and the tenderness with 
which she regarded him was manifest to all her 
acquaintances. Under such circumstances, it 
does seem strange that she should to the last 
have kept her marriage with him a secret. 

The most plausible reason for such a course, 
fear of 'Napoleon's spite, existed no longer after 
Waterloo. Why, then, have gratuitously incurred 
the reproach of an illicit connection t Why, 
above all, separate herself for five years from her 
own and Rocca's child t Such conduct does not 
on the face of it seem quite consistent with the 
lofty ideal of duty which Madame de Stael pro- 

Albertine's wedding took place in civil form 
at Leghorn on February 15 th, 181 5 ; and five 


days later in Pisa a double religious ceremony, 
one Catholic, the other Protestant, was performed. 

All Madame de Stael's friends gave a charm- 
ing picture of Albertine. Guizot, Lamartine, 
and Bonstetten were most enthusiastic about her. 
Their praises were also echoed by Byron, who, 
needless to say, was no mean judge; and Tick- 
nor, seeing her in Paris about a year after her 
marriage, never mentioned her except in terms 
of admiration. She was both beautiful and clever, 
and, after her mother's death, became, in her turn, 
the queen of a cosmopolitan salon. 

Accompanied by the bride and bridegroom, by 
Rocca, by Schlegel and Sismondi, Madame de 
Stael presently betook herself to Florence, and 
while there renewed her acquaintance with the 
Countess of Albany. Alfieri was dead now, and 
Fabre reigned in his stead. Madame de Stael 
appears to have adopted him with the mingled 
enthusiasm and indulgence which she exhibited 
towards all the tastes of her friends. 

The summer of 18 16 was spent in Coppet. 
The newest and most interesting figure there on 
this occasion was Byron. He had shaken the 
dust of England from his feet, and was nursing 
his lyrical cynicism at Cologny near Geneva. 
Unfortunately, his reputation was so bad that the 
virtuous society of the place would not know him. 
Madame de Stael alone not only received but 


welcomed him. He was grateful ; and so far 
yielded to the influence which this gratitude en- 
abled her to exercise over him as actually to 
make an imperfect attempt at reconciliation with 
his wife, in order to please his eloquent and mag- 
nanimous hostess. 

It is amusing to note the different impressions 
which Byron — the charming, reprehensible By- 
ron — made upon the various guests at the Cha- 
teau. Bonstetten, as might be expected, was 
quite fascinated by him, and wrote to Malthasson 
of his musical voice and beautiful head ; and of 
the " half-honest little demon " that darted in a 
lambent way through the sarcasm of his speech. 
Sismondi — the correct and censorious — dwells 
more especially on Byron's cynical contempt for 
appearances, and the conduct and companion- 
ship which had brought him into disrepute with 
the worthy Genevese. 

Coppet had never been quite as brilliant, prob- 
ably, as in this last summer that Madame de 
Stael was to reign there. The society was more 
varied in nationality than in the days when a 
brilliant but small band of intellects had gathered 
round to console her in her exile. Brougham, 
Bell, Lady Hamilton, Lord Breadalbane, Romilly, 
Stendahl, Schlegel, passed in rapid succession 
over the scene — talked, sparkled — and disappear- 
ed. They flashed like meteors, but Madame de 


Stael shone among them with a steady splendor. 
Wherever and with whomsoever she was, her 
powers remained always unquenchable. Never- 
theless a great sadness possessed her. This 
was partly due to her anxiety concerning Rocca 
— partly to the disappointment inevitable in a 
spirit which broke impatiently against the limi- 
tations of life, the pettiness of human nature. 
*' Ah happiness ! " she exclaimed yearningly. 
Then added, ** But at my age no trust is possible 
but in the goodness of God." 

Bonstetten, parting with her, was struck with 
the profound melancholy of the glance which 
she gave him. He had been gay and content, 
as usual, yet the memory of her look dwelt with 
him ; and unable to explain it, he at last, the 
dear, genial old man, arrived at the touching con- 
clusion that she had been thinking how old he 
was, and that she would never see him again. 
The adieu was, indeed, a lasting one ; but it was 
over Madame de Stael's radiant path that the 
shadows of death were to gather first. 

Nevertheless, during the winter of 1 8 16-17, 
and when she returned to Paris, her spirit showed 
no sign of failing. In her salon gathered Cha- 
teaubriand, Talleyrand, Wellington, Humboldt, 
Blucher, Lafayette, Schlegel and his brother, 
Canova, and crowds of English. Bonstetten 
averred that to her influence over Wellington 


alone was due the fact that the Army of Occu- 
pation was about this time diminished by 30,000 

Just before her death she removed from the 
Rue Royale to the Rue Neuve des Mathurins ; 
and it was here that Chateaubriand again, after 
so many years, saw Madame Recamier, and com- 
menced the romantic friendship which was to 
end only with his death. He had been invited 
to dine at Madame de Stael's; but, when he ar- 
rived there, found that she was too ill to enter- 
tain the .2:uests. The dinner took place all the 
same — for Madame de Stael invariably insisted 
on this, and made her daughter do the honors. 
They must have been melancholy banquets ; the 
little Duchess de Broglie presiding with a heavy 
heart, and all the guests being vividly conscious 
of the noble life slowly and painfully ebbing 
away in another room. It is with a certain re- 
lief, therefore, in the midst of so much sadness 
that one reads Chateaubriand's record of his 
meeting with Juliette. He was selfish and self- 
conscious and weak no doubt — his fretful uneasy 
vanity, indeed, pierces through the affected mel- 
ancholy of the Memoires d Outre Tombe. They 
are sickly with a kind of faded perfume ; and 
yet in the great void which is coming, one is glad 
to think that the blind Madame Recamier, the 
aged and feeble Chateaubriand, must often have 


remembered, perchance often talked of, that din- 
ner where they met in the house of their dying 

Her interest in life remained undiminished to 
the last. Not only Chateaubriand, but Constant, 
Mathieu de Montmorency, Sismondi, all her old 
friends, were daily with her. She was even glad 
to welcome strangers, although frequently so ill 
that her physicians forbade such visits for several 
days at a time. It was after one of these inter- 
vals that Ticknor saw her. She received him in 
bed, and her weakness was already so great that 
she could hardly stretch out her hand to touch 
his. She alluded to her approaching end with a 
calmness infinitely pathetic and admirable in one 
who suffered none of that slow extinction of the 
faculties which blunts the anguish of the end for 
so many departing souls. Seeing that her words 
pained her daughter, she changed the subject to 
America, and spoke of the great future of that 
country with characteristic enthusiasm of belief. 
Of Europe, Ticknor said, "she despaired." She 
might well do so, for the era then beginning was 
one with which she could not have sympathised. 
Whatever its virtues, its force, its promise, the 
oracles by which it was inspired must have 
sounded strange in her ears. Herself, she had 
been a kind of priestess ; through her some un- 
known God had spoken, and amid the thunder of 


great events her faith, for all its ideal grandeur, 
had hardly seemed too mighty. But that age 
had passed, and it was fit she should pass with it. 
All witnesses except the captious Sismondi 
bear testimony to the devotion with which Rocca 
nursed his wife in her last illness. Silent, pallid, 
sad as a phantom itself, he sat day by day beside 
her bed. According to Madame d'Abrantes, she 
never looked long at him without feeling that she 
might still live. The sense that her existence 
was necessary to him seemed to inspire her for 
a moment with the courage to take up anew the 
increasing burden of her days. But at other 
times her thoughts turned with a grateful sense 
of coming rest to the great change, and to the 
thought of her father " waiting for her," as she 
said, " on the other shore." Constant passed the 
last night of her life by her bedside. She had 
seemed so much better that at eleven o'clock 
Mathieu de Montmorency left, convinced that in 
the morning he would find her revived. She 
suffered no pain during the concluding hours, and 
the brightness of her intellect was not even mo- 
mentarily dimmed. Sleep visited her as usual ; 
j:hen at 5 o'clock she opened her eyes again, for 
the last time on the world. A few moments 
later she passed away, so quietly that her watchers 
did not note the precise moment in which her 


great soul was exhaled. The date of her death 
was 14th July, 18 1 7. 

The news of it was the signal for, perhaps, the 
most widely-spread and most genuine outburst 
of grief ever known. Joubert, indeed, asserts 
the contrary, and not only declares that she was 
not regretted, but adds that Constant, meeting 
him casually the very day after the event, did not 
even allude to it. It never seems to have oc- 
curred to Joubert that Constant might have had 
some other and deeper cause for silence than 
indifference. From such a nature reserve was 
perhaps the only tribute that could be more elo- 
quently expressive than the loud lamentations of 
other friends. These abounded, and even Chat- 
eaubriand, who, after all, had not been bound to 
the dead woman by such ties of constant friend- 
ship as attached Schlegel, Sismondi, and others 
— even he records with a sort of jealous care 
that in the last letter she ever wrote to Madame 
de Duras, a letter penned in "large, irregular 
characters like a child's," there was an affection- 
ate allusion to " Francis." 

Bonstetten and Sismondi have both left records 
of their grief at her funeral. The latter, writing 
immediately after it to his mother, said : *' My 
life is painfully changed. I owe more to her 
than to any other person." Bonstetten's sorrow 
finds a more energetic expression : *' I miss her 


as though she were a part of myself. I am 
maimed henceforward in thought." 

She was buried at Coppet, and they laid her 
coffin at the foot of her father's. A crowd of 
friends, of humble mourners, and of official 
functionaries, assembled to do her homage ; but 
Rocca was too ill to be present. He died, in- 
deed, only seven months later, and the son whom 
Madame de Stael had borne him hardly reached 
early manhood before he also passed away. 
Auguste de StaeL had preceded him along the 
road to eternity, and the Duchess de Broglie did 
not live to be old. 

Twenty years had hardly elapsed before, with 
the sole exception of her faithful friend and 
cousin, Madame Necker de Saussure, no near 
relative of Madame de Stael was still alive ; but 
those who had known her did not need to be 
reminded of her. She was constantly present 
to them, a radiant, imperishable vision. " I wish 
I could see you asleep," Bonstetten had said one 
day to her. " I would like to feel sure that you 
sometimes close your eyes, and are not always 
thinking." She had remained so bright and full 
of life to the last, that even Death's inexorable 
hand could not for many long years efface the 
recollection of her vivid personality. 

In a page of the Memoires d Outre Toinbe, 
Chateaubriand has left a description of a visit 


paid by himself and Madame Recamier to the 
grave at Coppet. It was fifteen years after 
Madame de Stael's death. The Chateau was 
closed, the apartments deserted. Juliette, wan- 
dering through them, recognised one after another 
the spots where Madame de Stael had played 
the piano, had talked to those gathered round 
her, or had written. 

The two friends went into the park where the 
autumn leaves already were reddening and fall- 
ing. The wind subsided by degrees, and the 
sound of a millstream alone broke the stillness. 
Madame Recamier entered the wood into whose 
depths the grave is hidden, while Chateaubriand 
remained looking at the snowy line of the Alps, 
and at the glittering lake. Above the sombre 
heights of Jura the sky was covered with golden 
clouds "like a glory spreading above a bier." 
Suddenly Madame Recamier, pale and tearful, 
phantom-like among phantoms, emerged from 
the wood. And on her companion's melancholy 
spirit fell a sense of all the emptiness of glory, 
of all the sad reality of life. " Qu est-ce que la 
gloiref' asked Madame de Stael. '' Ce nest 
qiiim deuil eclatant du bofiheiirr We could 
wish that the most famous of women might have 
held a less hopeless creed. 



Any notice of Madame de Stael would be im- 
perfect without a review of her works. She did 
not begin, like so many famous authors, to write 
at an abnormally early age — it is true, she com- 
posed Portraits, which were read aloud in her 
mother's salon, but everybody did as much in 
those days, and her attempts were not sufficiently 
remarkable to stamp her at once as a literary 
genius. It has been said how much her father 
discouraged her writing. This may account in 
part for the tardy development of the taste, al- 
though more was doubtless due to the peerless 
conversations in which, before the Revolution, 
her young intellect found all that it could need 
of ideas. However this may be, she was twenty 
before she wrote Sophie, ou les Sentijneitts Secrets, 
that elegiac " comedy " which drew down on its 
authoress's youthful head the animadversions of 
her austere mother. Madame Necker was 
shocked at the subject, which represented a 
young girl of seventeen struggling against a 



secret passion for her guardian, a married man, 
who is in love with her. Sophie (who, by the 
bye, is English) behaves in the noblest manner 
as soon as she discovers that her feelings are 
reciprocated, and leaves the home of which she 
has unwittingly destroyed the peace. Her guar- 
dian and his wife are no less equal to the occasion, 
and Milord Henri Bedford, Sophie's slighted 
swain, is inspired by their example. Everybody 
expresses his or her sentiments in polished and 
prolix verse, and the curtain finally falls on four 
loftily eloquent and magnanimously miserable 
people. The style is not inflated, but the piece 
is very dull, and, while betraying little of the 
writer's future talent, reveals two of her defects, 
exaggeration of sentiment and a want of humor. 

To the same date as Sophie belong yane Grej/y 
a tragedy in five acts, also in verse, of no real 
merit ; another tragedy, Montmorency, and three 
tales — all romantic and tiresome. 

Finally, in 1788, when she was nearly twenty- 
two, Madame de Stael published her Letters on 
Rousseau, and thus established her position as an 
aspirant to literary fame. The book, coming 
from a woman, made a great sensation. Indeed, 
this fact of her sex must never be lost sight of 
in judging the reception accorded to Madame de 
Stael's works. She attempted subjects of his- 


torical and philosophical interest which no woman 
in her country or age had approached before her. 

As might be expected, she was an ardent ad- 
mirer of Rousseau. Her sympathy with the 
philosophy of Helvetius was naturally slight. 
She required something declamatory, earnest, 
and didactic. In a glorification of natural sen- 
timents to result in some future apotheosis of 
humanity lay the key to her creed. '' Virtue " 
and still ** virtue " and more " virtue " was her 
cry, as though "virtue" were a tangible and 
definitely constituted thing to be extracted en bloc 
out of the materials composing humanity. To 
such a mind it was inevitable that Emile'SM^ the 
Contrat Social should appeal more strongly than 
any number of witty epigrams at the expense of 
penitents and priests. 

She sympathised with the philosophy of the 
eighteeth century in so far as it tended, by up- 
rooting abuses, to promote the progress of cul- 
ture and the emancipation of the oppressed, but 
she required some system that would reconstruct 
as well as destroy ; and being a fervid believer 
in theories, disliked nothing so much as the idea 
of leaving the human race to take care of itself. 
Rousseau, as embodying a protest against the 
spirit of frivolous negation, appeared to her in 
the light of a prophet of perfection ; and she 
saw in the approaching meeting of the States 


General a first step towards the realization of his 
views. These radiant ideals were destined to 
be suddenly and painfully obscured by the 
events of the Terror. Her only contribution to 
literature during that time was her celebrated 
and impassioned defence of the unhappy Queen. 
Public events so fascinated her attention that she 
had no leisure for any other thougtit. Two sen- 
tences in her Reflexions sur la Paix, published in 
1794, reveal this preoccupation. 

*' During the reign of Robespierre," she says, 
"■ when each day brought a list of devoted vic- 
tims, I could only desire death, and long for the 
end of the world and of the human race which 
was witness to, or accomplice in, such horrors. 
I should have made a reproach to myself even 
of thought, because it was separate from sor- 
row." In another passage she exclaims : " Oh 
appalling time, of which centuries will barely 
dim the trace ; time which will never belong to 
the past ! " 

Nevertheless, Robespierre had hardly fallen, 
before her ever vivid faith in humanity revived 
in full force. She looked for safety to the fac- 
tion which divided extreme revolutionaries from 
extreme reactionaries, and refused to believe 
that it could only act as a buffer. Its modera- 
tion was partly caused by exhaustion ; yet 
Madame de Stael, always optimistic, maintained 


that having no passions it must have convictions, 
and that the trumpet-call of liberty would sum- 
mon it to the front. In this she was mistaken ; 
but in the course of her observations on public 
events she uttered one remarkable prophecy. 
*' France," she wrote, " may remain a republic ; 
but to become a monarchy it must first submit 
to a military government." 

In 1790 she published her work on TAe Influ- 
ence of the Passions tipoft Human Happiness. 
This was originally to have been divided into 
two parts. The first portion was to be devoted 
to reflections on man's peculiar destiny ; the 
second, to the constitutional fate of nations. We 
have to concern ourselves with the first alone, as 
the second, which would have required an im- 
mense and minute knowledge of ancient and 
modern governments, was never even begun. 

In Madame de Stael's view the true obstacle 
to individual and political happiness lay in the 
force of passion. Neutralize this, and the prob- 
lem of government would be solved. Happiness, 
as she conceived it, was to consist in having 
hope without fear, activity without anxiety, 
glory without calumny, love without incon- 
stancy — in a word, ideal good with no admixture 
of evil. The happiness of nations would consist 
in the combination of Republican liberty with 
monarchical calm, of emulation among talents 


unaccompanied by factious clamor, of military 
spirit in foreign affairs, and a law-abiding- ten- 
dency in domestic matters. She concluded by 
saying that such an ideal is impossible of attain- 
ment, and the only achievable happiness is to 
be acquired by studying the true means of 
avoiding moral pain. To the discovery of this 
spiritual Nirvana her work was directed. The 
subject, as is evident, was a sterile one, since it 
dealt with abstractions that have no correspond- 
ing realities. To say that men and nations 
vi^ould be prosperous and contented without 
some particular institution or defect, is the 
same as to say that a human face would be 
beautiful without features. A blank surface is 
conceivable as a blank surface, but not as a 
physiognomy ; and to speculate concerning ideal 
humanity divorced from social systems, imposes 
on thought the most futile exercise that ever 
occurred to an enlightened mind. Such being 
the case, it is not surprising that Madame de 
Stael should eventually have abandoned her 
self-imposed task. Even as much of it as she 
accomplished landed her on a moving morass of 
conclusions of which the essential nullity must 
have been evident to herself before anybody. 
For the rest, her analysis of the various passions 
is admirable. One wonders as one reads how a 
young woman could have reached so perfect a 


comprehension of the springs of human action. 
The penetration displayed is unerring, and only- 
equalled by the masculine vigor of touch. A 
good example is the following : '* Truly great 
men are such as have rendered a greatness like 
their own less necessary to successive genera- 
tions." And here is another striking passage: 
" A revolution suspends every action but that of 
force. Social order establishes the ascendancy 
of esteem and virtue, but a revolution limits 
men's choice to their physical capacities. The 
only sort of moral influence that it does not ex- 
clude is the fanaticism of such ideas as, not 
being susceptible of any restraint, are weapons 
of war and not exercises of the mind. To aspire 
to distinction in times of revolution one must 
always outstrip the actual momentum of events, 
and the consequence of this is a rapid descent 
which one has no power of staying. In vain 
one perceives the abyss in front. To throw 
oneself from the chariot is to be killed by the 
fall, so that to avoid the danger is more perilous 
than to face it. One must of one's own accord 
tread the path that leads to ruin, since the least 
step backwards overturns the individual but does 
not hinder the event." 

This is a very good example both of the clear- 
ness of Madame de Stael's thought and the care- 
less confusion of her style. She introduced 


metaphors just as they occurred to her, without 
any preparatory gradations of thought. 

The second section of the work is devoted to 
the examination of natural affections such as 
family love, friendship, and pity.. Here, agam, 
the analysis is delicate and true, but the mind, 
fatigued by the futility of the theme, recoils 
from such minute dissection of emotion. Pas- 
sion, being comparatively rare, is always inter- 
esting, but sentiment does not bear prolonged 

Finally come the remedies to be applied to the 
evils worked by passion. They consist in phi- 
losophy, in study, and the practice of benevo- 
lence, joined, if possible, to a child-like faculty 
of extracting from each hour just the amount of 
happiness that it contains. With this lame and 
impotent conclusion the book practically ends, 
for all the remaining reflections do not avail to 
place in any clearer light the uncertain and 
colorless thought of the writer. 

Her next work was that on Literature Consid- 
ered in Relation to Social Institutions. Its 
object was to establish the continuous progress 
and ultimate perfectibility of the human mind, 
and the happy influence exercised by liberty 
upon literature. 

The theory of the authoress was that the prog- 


ress of philosophy, i. e. thought, had been grad- 
ual, while that of poetry had been spasmodic. 

Art, indeed, offering, by its early maturity, an 
awkward contradiction to her system, she pro- 
ceeded to get rid of it by describing it as the 
product of imagination rather than of thought, 
and by adding that its plastic and sensuous 
qualities rendered it capable of flourishing under 
systems of government which necessarily crush 
every other form of intellectual activity. To 
prove the perfectibility of the human mind, she 
then had but poetry and philosophy. To the 
latter she assigned the really glorious future, 
while the former she regarded^ as finished. She 
was the first of the Romanticists, in the sense 
that she preferred the poetry of the north to 
that of the south ; and her predilections in this 
line carried her so far, that she placed Ossian 
above Homer. She considered that the early 
forms of poetry— in other words, mere tran- 
scripts of material impressions — were superior 
to those later creations in which sentiment 
enters as an element. And this idea, which 
seems at first a contradiction to her theory of 
perfectibility, was really intended to confirm it. 
For, in her view, the value of literature consist- 
ing exclusively in the amount of thought that it 
contained, introspective poetry became a mere 


bridge which the mind traversed on its way to 
wider horizons. 

Madame de Stael was not only not a poet 
herself, but she was incapable of appreciating 
the higher forms of poetry. In her excursions 
through the regions of literature, she was always 
in pursuit of some theory which would reconcile 
the contradictions of human destiny. Man, re- 
garded as socially perfectible, being her ideal, she 
was in haste to classify and relegate to some 
convenient limbo the portions of a subject which 
did not directly contribute to her hypotheses. 
Having disposed, therefore, of poetry and art, 
she undertook to consider literature from the 
point of view of psychology. She was only 
pleased with it when self-conscious and analyti- 
cal. Dante probably perplexed her, and she 
evoked to condemn him the perruqued shade of 
*' Le Gout." Shakespeare she applauded, as 
might be expected, chiefly in consideration of 
Hamlet ; while Petrarch pleased her principally 
because he was harmonious ; and Ariosto be- 
cause he was fanciful. The true significance of 
the Renaissance escaped her. She sought for 
the origin of each literature in the political and 
religious institutions of the country where it 
arose, instead of regarding both literature and 
social- conditions as simultaneous products of 
the national mind. Her erudition was inade- 


quate to her task, and the purpose of her works, 
by warping her judgments, contributed to make 
them superficial. While pronouncing the Eng- 
lish and French drama to be essentially superior 
to the Greek, she characteristically preferred 
Euripides to his two mighty predecessors. The 
grandeur of the dominant idea of Greek tragedy 
— that of an inevitable destiny, against which 
man struggles in vain — appears to have escaped 
her altogether. This is not surprising, since 
such a conception was entirely opposed to, her 
own order of mind and to the age in which she 
lived. The root of all the social theories then 
prevailing was the value of the individual. Man 
was not a puppet of the gods, but the architect 
of his own fate. To lose hold of ideal virtue 
was to become incapable of governing or being 
governed ; and ideal virtue was a definite entity 
which anybody might possess who chose. This 
— rather crudely stated — was Madame de Stael's 
point of view. Her enthusiasm rejected all 
idea of limited responsibilities. The ethical 
value of the ^schylean trilogy — the awful sense 
of overhanging doom which pervades it — did 
not appeal to her, because it tended to the an- 
nihilation of the struggling soul. In other 
words, she liked self-conscious drama, and was 
attracted to Euripides by his creation of arti- 


ficial situations, in which interesting personages 
had room and leisure to explain themselves. 

With Aristophanes she was frankly disgusted ; 
from her didactic standpoint, because of his pro- 
nounced indecency ; and on artistic grounds, 
because he attacked living individuals instead of 
creating characters like Tartufe and Falstaff. 
To his beauties she remained entirely blind, and 
this, perhaps, is to be explained by her deficiency 
in the aesthetic faculty. It is said that Chateau- 
briand first taught her to appreciate nature, and 
Schlegel to perceive the loveliness of art. Che- 
nedolle complained that she had lived for years 
opposite Lake Leman *' without finding an im- 
age" in regard to it; and she herself once 
frankly admitted that of her own accord she 
would hardly open her window to gaze on the bay 
of Naples, while she would go a hundred miles 
to converse with a new mind. 

Its defects admitted, we may own that Madame 
de Stael's work contains many charming chap- 
ters. If, true to her theory, she provokes her 
reader by preferring the Latin poets to the Greek 
ones, and Quintihan to Cicero, simply because 
of their later date ; if she persists, rather than 
modify her views, that the sterile scholasticism 
of the Middle Ages was not a real retrogression, 
and strangely overlooks, in her admiration for 
Christianity, the intellectual benefits which man 


owes to the Arabs ; on the other hand, she has 
flashes of admirable insight. The chapter on 
the invasion of Italy by the barbarians, and the 
part played by Christianity in fusing the two 
races, is very suggestive. But, unfortunately, it 
is suggestive only, and sins by a sketchiness 
which, more or less, mars the whole book. This 
was one of Madame de Stael's defects. She' 
abounded in ideas, but failed either in the power 
or the patience to work them out. 

Two other interesting chapters are those on 
the " Grace, Gaiety, and Taste of the French 
Nation," and on "Literature in the Reign of 
Louis XIV." The peculiar social influences 
which, among successive generations of cour- 
tiers, produced the best writers of France, are 
very happily described ; but here again the con- 
clusions are indicated rather than developed. 
Madame de Stael stated her conviction that the 
palmy days of French wit were over, and that 
the literature of the future, if it wished to flour- 
ish, must invest itself with greater gravity. 

Convinced that the moment had come for the 
dramatist to pack up his puppet-show and de- 
spatch it to a museum of antiquities, she laid 
down rules for an ideal republican literature, and 
prescribed strong emotions, careful analysis of 
character, and a high moral tone as indispensa- 
ble ingredients. She was in fact one of the first 


to admire and write that appalling product, the 
novel with a purpose. 

Anything duller than Delphine it would be 
difficult to imagine. From the first page to the 
last there is hardly one line of genuine inspira- 
tion. All is forced, exaggerated, overstrained. 
The misfortunes of the heroine are so needlessly 
multiplied, that they end by exasperating the 
reader ; and the motif of the book — the contrast 
between conventional and moral ideals— fails in 
true dramatic interest. The plot is as follows : 
Madame de Vernon has a daughter, Mathilde, 
beautiful and sanctimonious, whom she desires 
to marry to Leonce de Mondoville, a young 
Spaniard of noble birth and aristocratic preju- 
dices. Madame de Vernon has in the whole 
world one friend, Delphine d'Albemar, a miracle 
of grace, wit, and beauty, who does acts of un- 
heard-of generosity, and generally by some evil 
chance accomplishes them at the moment when 
they lead to unlucky results for herself. She is 
a young widow, and has been left by her elderly 
and devoted husband a fortune, of which she 
proceeds to divest herself as rapidly as possible. 
One of her favorite objects of charity is Madame 
de Vernon, who does not deserve her pity, since 
the pecuniary embarrassments under which she 
suffers arise from her love of card-playing, and 
general mismanagement. But Delphine adores 


her friend, who is represented as extremely 
charming, and is in some respects a well-drawn 
character. Her life is one long act of dissimu- 
lation. She masks her cynicism cleverly, under 
an appearance of indolence, which dispenses her 
from ever taking inconvenient resolutions, or ap- 
pearing agitated by events which should — but do 
not — move her. She has some faint affection 
for her generous dupe — Delphine ; but not 
enough to be prevented from taking every mean 
advantage of her. There is some difficulty in 
arranging Mathilde's marriage, on account of the 
want of a dowry. Delphine hastens to supply 
this, and then the bridegroom elect, Leonce, 
appears on the scene. He is described as di- 
vinely handsome. The cold and pietistic 
Mathilde falls in love with him immediately (as 
was her duty, since he was to be her husband), 
but so, unfortunately, does Delphine. What is 
still worse, he is by no means attracted by his 
'fiancee, but reciprocates the young widow's pas- 
sion. Then the drama begins. Madame de 
Vernon, while seeming to see nothing, sees 
everything. Mathilde is really blind. Delphine 
is agitated, but resolved, if possible, to be happy. 
This, by the way, is the only gleam of common 
sense that she has throughout the book. Unfor- 
tunately, she manages to compromise herself (of 
course quite innocently) by espousing the cause 


of a pair of guilty but repentant lovers; and 
Madame de Vernon cleverly uses the awkward 
positions in which she places herself, in order to 
detach Leonce from her. He marries Mathilde 
and is madly unhappy. Delphine pours out her 
feelings in long letters to her sister-in-law and 
confidant, Mademoiselle d'Albemar, letters which 
she writes, by the way, on recovering from faint- 
ing fits, or when lying in bed, or when on the 
vero:e of distraction. The whole of the novel 
is told in letters, and is proportionately long- 
winded and unnatural. 

Not long after the marriage Madame de Vernon 
dies, and on her death-bed confesses her perfidy 
to her victim. Then the mutual passion of Del- 
phine and Leonce enters upon a new and har- 
rowing phase. They determine to remain 
technically virtuous, but to see one another con- 
stantly — of course unknown to Mathilde. This 
unnatural situation — unnaturally prolonged, be- 
comes unbearable through its monotonous 

Finally Mathilde discovers the state of the 
case and conjures Delphine to separate herself 
from Leonce. Madame d'Albemar consents, and 
disappears. Leonce is then described by his 
confidant as being on the point of madness. He 
alternately loses consciousness, and rushes about 
with dishevelled hair and distraught looks. Del- 


phine goes to Switzerland, and there proceeds 
to compromise herself anew, this time beyond 
recall, for the sake of a rejected lover who had 
behaved disgracefully to her. 

She had taken refuge in a convent of which 
the superioress, Madame de Ternan, turns out 
to be the aunt of Leonce. This lady is some- 
thing of the same sort as Madame de Vernon — 
except that her egotism, although quite as sys- 
tematic, is not so base. But it can become so on 
occasion, and, as she is rather fond of Delphine 
and anxious to keep her with her to solace her 
old age, she plays into the hands of Madame de 
Mondoville (the mother of Leonce) and cleverly 
contrives to make Delphine take the veil. Barely 
has this been done when Leonce appears and 
claims her as his own, Mathilde having in the 
meanwhile died. Then is the exhausted reader 
harassed anew by a fresh spectacle of poignant 
anguish. A Monsieur de Sebersci suggests that 
Delphine should break her vows, quit her con- 
vent, and join Leonce, pointing out that, thanks 
to the Revolution, they can be quite respectably 
married in France. Delphine is horrified at first, 
but Leonce having announced the firm intention 
of putting an end to his existence if she remains 
a nun, she finally escapes and joins him. One 
begins to hope that they are going to be happy 
at last, when the "purpose" of the book pre- 


sents itself. Madame de Stael was anxious to 
prove that social conventions may not be braved 
with impunity, but overtake and crush the nature 
which defies them. Delphine throughout had 
listened to no voice but that of her conscience 
and her heart ; she is consequently the victim of 
calumny. Leonce is principally swayed by pas- 
sion. He defies society in the end to possess 
Delphine, but has no sooner induced her to 
break her vows for him than he begins to feel 
the stigma of the act He leaves her, and seeks 
^eath on the battle-field. Death spares him, but 
he is arrested as an aristocrat and condemned to 
be shot. Delphine follows him, and by her elo- 
quence wrings a pardon from the judge. Leonce, 
enlightened by the approach of death as to the 
nothingness of the world's opinion, is prepared 
to live happily at last with the woman whom he 
still professes to adore. But all at once the 
order for his release is rescinded and he is taken 
out to die. Delphine accompanies him, and 
talks all along the road. Indeed, she is super- 
fluously eloquent, from the first page of her 
history to the last. When Leonce has been 
strung up by her to the highest pitch of exalted 
feeling, she takes poison and dies at his feet. 
He is then shot ; and the lovers are interred in 
one grave by Monsieur de Serbellane, who has 
appeared again in the last chapter, after having 

■HER WORKS. 225 

been the primary though unwitting cause of his 
unhappy friends' woes. 

It is difficult to understand why critics like 
Sainte Beuve should so warmly have praised 
this novel. No doubt it shows talent, especially 
in the analysis of mental struggle ; but it is false 
from beginning to end. All the characters want 
vitality, although some of the qualities attributed 
to them are described with penetration and force. 
Delphine and Leonce talk too much, and faint 
too much, and are simply insupportable. Finally, 
the book is drearily monotonous and unrelieved 
by one gleam of poetry or humor. 

Cormne is a classic of which everybody is 
bound to speak with respect. The enormous 
admiration which it excited at the time of 
its appearance may seem somewhat strange in 
this year of grace ; but then it must be remem- 
bered that Italy was not the over-written country 
it has since become. Besides this, Madame de 
Stael was the most celebrated woman, and, after 
Napoleon, the most conspicuous personage of 
her day. Except Chateaubriand, she had nobody 
to dispute with her the palm of literary glory in 
France. Her exile, her literary circle, her cour- 
ageous opinions, had kept the eyes of Europe 
fixed on her for years, so that any work from her 
pen was sure to excite the liveliest curiosity. 

Corinne is a kind of glorified guide-book, with 


some of the qualities of a good novel. It is very 
long-winded, but the appetite of the age was 
robust in that respect, and the highly-strung 
emotions of the hero and heroine could not 
shock a taste which had been formed by the 
Sorrows of Werther. It is extremely moral, 
deeply sentimental, and of a deadly earnestness 
"" — three characteristics which could not fail to 
recommend it to a dreary and ponderous genera- 
tion, the most deficient in taste that ever' trod 
the earth. 

But it is artistic in the sense that the interest 
is concentrated from first to last on the central 
figure, and the drama, such as it is, unfolds 
itself naturally from its starting-point, which is 
the contrast between the characters of Oswald 
and Corinne. 

Oswald Lord Nelvil is a young man of ex- 
quisite sensibility and profound melancholy. He 
comes to Rome (after distinguishing himself he- 
roically during a fire at Ancona) accompanied by 
a young Frenchman, the Count D'Erfeuil, whom 
he has casually met. One of the first sights 
which greets them on their arrival in the Eternal 
City is the triumphal procession of *' Corinne " 
on her way to be crowned in the Capitol. She 
is a musician, an improvisatrice, a Muse or Sibyl, 
with all the poetry and passion of Italy stamped 
upon her radiant brow. In the midst of her im- 


provisation she exchanges glances with Lord 
Neivil, and the fate of both is sealed. He is in- 
tended to be a typical Englishman imbued with 
a horror of eccentricity in women. His ideal of 
the sex is a domestic angel, and he feels bound 
to disapprove of Corinne, who lives alone, though 
young and beautiful, and offers the spectacle of 
her various talents to the profane view of the 
crowd. The Count D'Erfeuil mocks at every- 
thing, and is the most amusing character in the 
book ; feels no scruples about knowing Corinne, 
and, having quickly discovered that his reserved 
English friend pleases her, he persuades that 
gentleman to call on her also. Corinne speaks 
English wonderfully, and allows Lord Nelvil to 
divine that there is a mystery about her past. 
Once she betrays great agitation on hearing the 
name of Edgermond, which is the patronymic of 
a certain Lucile, whom Lord Nelvil's father had 
destined him to marry. Grief at the death of 
this father is, by the way, the ostensible cause of 
his persistent melancholy, but he also vaguely 
hints at remorse. He promises that he will one 
day confide his history to Corinne, who on her 
side prepares herself to tell him hers. But as 
she greatly fears the effect of it on him, and is 
deeply in love, she puts off the evil hour, and, in 
order to keep him with her, offers to be his 
cicerone in Rome. Together they wander among 


the ruins, visit the galleries, and drive on the 
Appian Way. Corinne explains everything, dis- 
courses on everything, and Oswald interrupts 
her with exclamations of rapture at her wit and 
learning. This novel form of courtship lasts 
for some weeks, and finally the lovers proceed to 
Naples. Corinne persuades Oswald that there 
is nothing at all extraordinary in such conduct 
in Italy, where everyone, according to her, may 
do as he likes. But the Count L'Erfeuil makes 
remarks which, although intended to be merely 
flippant, are sensible enough to convince Lord 
Nelvil that he must either marry Corinne or 
leave her. He is very much in love, or fancies 
himself so. Nevertheless he hesitates because 
of the mystery surrounding his inamorata. Who 
is she .-* What is her name 1 Whence comes 
her fortune.-* If she is not quite blameless, he 
thinks he can never marry her, for that would be 
derogating from the traditions of his order and 
outraging the shade of his father. The mental 
struggle which he undergoes is visible to Corinne 
and fills her with anguish and alarm. At last, 
during an expedition to Vesuvius, Oswald speaks. 
He had been at one time in love with an un- 
worthy Frenchwoman ; had lingered in France 
when his father required his presence in England, 
and had finally returned, only to find him dead. 
From that hour he had known no peace ; re- 


morse had pursued him ; his filial love, which 
was morbidly excessive, caused him to look upon 
himself as almost a parricide, and he considered 
that he was thenceforward morally bound to do 
nothing which his father might disapprove. 
This absurd conclusion afflicts Corinne visibly, 
and the sight of her agitation reawakens all 
Oswald's doubts. He conjures her to tell him 
her history. She consents ; but begs for a few 
days' grace, and employs the interval in planning 
and carrying out a fete on Cape Misenum. In 
front of the azure, tideless sea she takes her lyre 
and pours out an improvisation on the past 
glories of that classic shore. This, although 
Oswald does not know it, is an adieu to her past 
life, for she foresees that what she has to tell 
him of herself will entirely change her destiny. 
Either he will refuse to marry her, and then she 
will never know happiness again-, but wingless, 
voiceless, will go down to her tomb, or else he 
will make her his wife, and the Sibyl will be lost 
in the peeress. 

The next day she leaves with him the narrative 
of her youth. She is the daughter of Lord Ed- 
germond by an Italian wife, consequently the 
half-sister of Lucile. At the age of fifteen she 
had gone to England, and fallen under the rule 
of her stepmother. Lady Edgermond, a cold and 
rigid Englishwoman, who cared for nothing out- 


side her small provincial town, and regarded 
genius as a dangerous eccentricity. In the 
narrow monotony of the life imposed upon her 
Corinne nearly died. At the age of twenty-one 
she finally escaped and returned to Italy, having 
dropped her family name out of respect for Lady 
Edgermond's feelings. Until her meeting with 
Oswald she had led the life of a muse, singing, 
dancing, playing, improvising for the whole of 
Roman society to admire, and had conceived no 
idea of greater felicity until learning to love. 
This love had been a source of peculiar torment 
to her from the fact of her divining how much 
the unconventionality of her conduct, when fully 
known to him, must shock Oswald's English 
notions of propriety. In the first moment, how- 
ever, his love triumphs over these considerations, 
and he resolves to marry Corinne. Only he 
wishes first — in order that no reproach may 
attach to her — to force Lady Edgermond once 
again to acknowledge her as her husband's 
daughter. He goes to England, partly for this 
purpose, partly because his regiment has been 
ordered on active service. 

In England he again meets Lucile, a cold- 
mannered, correct, pure-minded, but secretly 
ardent English girl, with an odd resemblance in 
many ways to a French jeune fille. He men- 
tions the subject of her step-daughter to the 


upright but selfish Lady Edgermond, who has 
set her heart on seeing Oswald the husband of 
Lucile. She is too honorable to try and detach 
him from Corinne by any underhand means, but 
does what she knows will be far more effectual ; 
that is, she makes him acquainted with the 
fact that his father had seen Corinne in her 
early girlhood, had admired her, but had strong- 
ly pronounced against the marriage proposed by 
Lord Edgermond between her and Oswald. In 
the view of the late Lord Nelvil, she was too 
brilliant and distinguished for domestic life. 
This is a terrible blow to Oswald. He begins to 
think he must give up Corinne, and is strength- 
ened in the idea by perceiving that the beautiful 
and virtuous Lucile is in love with him. Finally 
he marries her, decided at the last by Corinne's 
inexplicable silence. She has not answered his 
letters for a month, and he concludes that she 
has forgotten him. But her silence is owing to 
her having left Venice and come to England. 
She loses a whole month in London, for very in- 
sufficient reasons — necessary, however, to the 
story — and at last follows Oswald to Scotland 
just in time to learn that he is married, to fall 
senseless on the road-side, and to be picked up by 
the Count D'Erfeuil. She returns heart-broken 
to Italy, and dies slowly through four long years 
of unbroken misery. 


When she is near her end Oswald comes to 
Florence, accompanied by his wife and child. 
He had begun to regret Corinne as soon as he 
had married Lucile, who, on her side, being 
naturally resentful, takes refuge in coldness and 
reserve. As soon as Lord Nelvil learns that 
his old love is in Florence and dying he wishes 
ardently to see her, but she refuses to receive 
him. He sends the child to her, and she teaches 
it some of her accomplishments. Lucile visits 
her secretly, and is converted by her eloquence 
to the necessity of rendering herself more at- 
tractive to her husband by displaying some graces 
of mind. 

At last Corinne consents to see Oswald once 
again, but it shall be, she determines, in public. 
This is one of the most unnatural scenes in the 
book. Corinne invites all her friends to as- 
semble in a lecture hall. Thither she has her- 
self transported and placed in an arm-chair. A 
young girl clad in white and crowned with flow- 
ers recites the Song of the Swan, or adieu to 
life, which Corinne has composed, while Oswald, 
listening to it and gazing on the dying poetess 
from his place in the crowd, is suffocated with 
emotion and finally faints. A few days later 
Corinne dies, her last act being to point with her 
diaphanous hand to the moon, which is partially 


obscured by a band of cloud such as she and 
Lord Nelvil had once seen when in Naples. 

Even as a picture of Italy, Corinne leaves 
much to be desired. Madame de Stael's ideas 
of art were acquired. She had no spontaneous 
admiration even for the things she most warmly 
praised, and her judgments were conventional 
and essentially cold. Some of the descriptions 
are good in the sense of being accurate and 
forcibly expressed. But even in the best of 
them — that of Vesuvius — one feels the effort. 
Madame de Stael is wide-eyed and conscientious, 
but has no flashes of inspired vision. She can 
catalogue but not paint. A certain difficulty in 
saying enough on aesthetic subjects is rendered 
evident by her vice of moralizing. Instead of 
admiring a marble column as a column, or a pict- 
ure as a picture, she finds in it food for reflection 
on the nature of man and' the destiny of the 
world. Some of her remarks on Italian character 
are extremely clever, and show her usual sur- 
prising power of observation ; but they are gen- 
erally superficial. . 

This was due, in part, to her system of ex- 
plaining everything by race and political institu- 
tions, in part to her passion for generalization. 
Because ItaHans had produced the finest art and 
some of the finest music ; because they had no 
salons and wrote sonnets ; because they had de- 


veloped a curiously systematic form of conjugal 
infidelity ; finally, because they had no poUtical 
liberty, Madame de Stael constructed a theory 
which represented them as simply passionate, ro- 
mantic, imaginative and indulgent. This theory 
has cropped up now and again in literature from 
her days to our own, and if partially correct, 
overlooks the subtler shades and complex con- 
tradictions of the Italian mind. 

Roman society in the beginning of this century 
was far from being the transfigured and exotic 
thing represented in Corinne. The modern 
Sibyl's prototype, poor Maddalena Maria Mo- 
relli, was mercilessly pasquinaded, and on her 
road to the Capitol pelted with rotten eggs. 
This gives a very good idea of the sort of impres- 
sion that would have been produced on a real 
Prince of Castel-Forte and his fellows by the 
presence in their midst of a young and beautiful 
woman, unmarried, nameless, and rich. Co- 
rinne's lavish exhibition of her accomplishments 
is another "false note," as singing and dancing 
were but rarely, if ever, performed by amateurs 
in Italy. What redeems the book are the de- 
tached sentences of thought that gem almost 
every page of it. Madame de Stael had grad- 
ually shaken off the vices of style which her 
warmest admirers deplore in her, and in her 
Allemagne she was presently to reveal herself as 


singularly lucid, brilliant, and acute. This work 
of hers on Germany is, perhaps, the most satis- 
factory of her many productions. As a review 
of society, art, literature, and philosophy, it nat- 
urally lends itself to the form best suited to her 
essentially analytical mind. 

Madame de Stael was always obliged to gen- 
eralize, that being a law of her intelligence, and 
this disposition is accentuated in th'e Allemagne^ 
through her desire to establish such contrasts 
between Germany and France, as would inspire 
the latter with a sense of its defects. She saw 
Germany on the eve of a great awakening, and 
was not perhaps as fully conscious of this as she 
might have been. As Saint Beuve happily says, 
she was not a poet, and it is only poets who, 
like birds of passage, feel a coming change of 
season. Germany appealed to her, however, 
through everything in herself that was least 
French ; her earnestness, her vague but ardent 
religious tendencies, her spiritualism, her exces- 
sive admiration of intellectual pursuits. She 
was, therefore, exceptionally well-qualified to 
reveal to her own countrymen the hitherto un- 
known or unappreciated beauties of the German 

She was, on the other hand, extremely alive to 
the dullness of German, and especially of Vien- 
nese, society, and portrays it in a series of 


delightfully witty phrases. The Allemagne is 
indeed the wittiest of all her works, and abounds 
in the happiest touches. 

The opinions expressed on German literature 
are favorable towards it, and on the whole cor- 
rect. If she betrays that Schiller was personally 
more sympathetic to her than Goethe, she never- 
theless was quick to perceive in the latter the 
strain of southern passion, the light, warmth and 
color, which made his intellect less national than 

Her chapters on Kant and German philosophy 
generally, are luminous if not exhaustive. She 
takes the moral sentiment as her standpoint, 
and pronounces from that on the different sys- 
tems. Needless to say, she admires metaphys- 
ical speculations, and considers them as valuable 
in developing intellect and strengthening char- 

Les Dix Annees d Exit is a charming book. 
Apart from its interest as a transcript of the 
writer's impressions during her exile at Coppet 
and subsequent flight across Europe, it contains 
brilliant pictures of different lands, and especially 
Russia. One is really amazed to note how much 
she grasped of the national characteristics during 
her brief sojourn in that country. The worst re- 
proach that can be addressed to her description 
is that, as usual, it is rather too favorable. Her 


anxiety to prove that no country could flourish, 
during a reign such as Napoleon's, made her 
disposed to see through rose-colored spectacles 
the Governments which found force to resist him. 
The Considerations on the French Revolution 
were published posthumously. According to 
Sainte Beuve, this is the finest of Madame de 
Stael's works. "Her star," he says, *' rose in 
its full splendor only above her tomb." It 
is difficult to pronounce any summary judgment 
on this book, which is partly biographical and 
partly historical. The first volume is principally 
devoted to a vindication of Necker ; the second 
to an attack on Napoleon ; the third to a study 
of the English Constitution and the applicability 
of its principles to France. The first two vol- 
umes alone were revised by the authoress before 
her death. We find in this work all Madame de 
Stael's natural and surprising power of compre- 
hension. She handles difficult political problems 
with an ease that would be more astonishing 
still, had the book more unity. As it is, each 
separate circumstance is related and explained 
admirably, but one is not made to reach the 
core of the stupendous event of which Europe 
still feels the vibration. Her portrait of Napo- 
leon is unsurpassable for force and irony, for 
sarcasm and truth. All she possessed of epi- 
grammatic power seems to have come unsought 


to enable her to avenge herself on the mean, 
great man who had feared her enough to exile 
and persecute her. 

In closing this rapid review of her works, one 
asks why was Madame de Stael not a greater 
writer ? The answer is easy ; she lacked high 
creative power and the sense of form. Her 
mind was strong of grasp and wide in range, 
but continuous effort fatigued it. She could 
strike out isolated sentences alternately bril- 
s liant, exhaustive and profound, but she could not 
link them to other sentences so as to form an 
organic page. Her thought was definite singly, 
but vague as a whole. She always saw things 
separately, and tried to unite them arbitrarily, 
and it is generally difficult to follow out any idea 
of hers from its origin to its end. .Her thoughts 
are like pearls of price profusely scattered, or 
carelessly strung together, but not set in any 
design. On closing one of her books, the reader 
is left with no continuous impression. He has 
been dazzled and delighted, enlightened also by 
flashes; but the horizons disclosed have van- 
ished again, and the outlook is enriched by no 
new vistas. 

Then she was deficient in the higher qualities 
of imagination. She could analyze but niot 
characterize ; construct but not create. She 
could take one defect like selfishness, or one 


passion like love, and display its workings ; or 
she could describe a whole character, like Napo- 
leon's, with marvellous penetration ; but she 
could not make her personages talk or act like 
human beings. She lacked pathos, and had no 
sense of humor. In short, hers was a mind en- 
dowed with enormous powers of comprehension, 
and an amazing richness of ideas, but deficient 
in perception of beauty, in poetry, and true 
originality. She was a great social personage, 
but her in|iuence on literature was not destined 
to be lasting, because, in spite of foreseeing 
much, she had not the true prophetic sense of 
proportion, and confused the things of the pres- 
ent with those of the future — the accidental 
with the enduring. 


Messrs. Roberts Brothers' Publications. 



By bertha THOMAS. 
One volume. i6mo. Cloth. Price, ^i.oo. 

** Miss Thomas has accomplished a difficult task with as much good sense _ as 
good feeling. She presents the main facts of George Sand's life, extenuating 
nothing, and setting naught down in malice, but wisely leaving her readers to 
form their own conclusions. Everybody knows that it was not such a life as the 
women of England and America are accustomed to live, and as the worst of men 
are glad to have them live. . . . Whatever may be said against it, its result on 
George Sand was not what it would have been upon an English or American 
woman of genius." — New York Mail and Express. 

*' This is a volume of the * Famous Women Series,' which was begun so well 
with George Eliot and Emily Bronte. The book is a review and critical analysis 
of George Sand's life and work, by no means a detailed biography. Amantine 
Lucile Aurore Dupin, the maiden, or Mme. Dudevant, the married woman, is 
forgotten in the renown of the pseudonym George Sand. 

" Altogether, George Sand, with all her excesses and defects, is a representative 
woman, one of the names of the nineteenth century. She was great among the 
greatest, the friend and compeer of the finest intellects, and Miss Thomas's essay 
will be a useful and agreeable introduction to a more extended study of her life 
and works." — Knickerbocker. 

" The biography of this famous woman, by Miss Thomas, is the only one in 
existence. Those who have awaited it with pleasurable anticipation, but with 
some trepidation as to the treatment of the erratic side of her character, cannot 
fail to be pleased with the skill by which it is done. It is the best production on 
George Sand that has yet been published. The author modestly refers to it as a 
sketch, which it undoubtedly is, but a sketch that gives a just and discriminating 
analysis of George Sand's Hfe, tastes, occupations, and of the motives and impulses 
which prompted her unconventional actions, that were misunderstood by a narrow 
public. The difficulties encountered by the writer in describing this remarkable 
character are shown in the first line of the opening chapter, which says, ' In nam- 
ing George Sand we name something more exceptional than even a great genius.* 
That tells the whole story. Misconstruction, condemnation, and isolation are the 
penalties enforced upon the great leaders in the realm of advanced thought, by 
the bigoted people of their time. The thinkers soar beyond the common herd, 
whose soul-wings are not strong enough to fly aloft to clearer atmospheres, and 
consequently they censure or ridicule what they are powerless to reach. George 
Sand, even lo a greater extent than her contemporary, George Eliot, was a victim 
to ignorant social prejudices, but even the conservative world was forced to recog- 
nize the matchless genius of these two extraordinary women, each widely different 
in her character and method of thought and writing. . .. She has told much that 
is good which has been untold, and just what will interest the reader, and no more, 
\n the same easy, entertaining style that characterizes all of these unpretentious 
iiographies." — Hartford Times. 

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One volume. 16mo. Cloth. Price, $1.00. 

" The story of Mary Lamb has long been familiar to the readers of Elia, but 
never in its entirety as in the monograph which Mrs. Anne Gilchrist has just 
contributed to the Famous Women Series. Darkly hinted at by Talfourd in his 
Final Memorials of Charles Lamb, it became better known as the years went on 
and that imperfect work was followed by fuller and franker biographies, — became 
so well known, in fact, that no one could recall the memory of Lamb without 
recalling at the same time the memory of his sister." — New York Mail and Ex- 

" A biography of Mary Lamb must inevitably be also, almost more, a biogra- 
phy of Charles Lamb, so completely was the life of the sister encompassed by 
that of her brother ; and it must be allowed that Mrs. Anne Gilchrist has per- 
formed a difficult biographical task with taste and ability. . . . The reader is at 
least likely to lay down the book with the feeling that if Mary Lamb is not famous 
she certainly deserves to be, and that a debt of gratitude is due Mrs, Gilchrist for 
this well-considered record of her life." — Boston Courier. 

"Mary Lamb, who was the embodiment of everything that is tenderest in 
woman, combined with this a heroism which bore her on for a while through the 
terrors of insanity. Think of a highly intellectual woman struggling year after 
year with madness, triumphant over it for a season, and then at last succumbing to 
it. The saddest lines that ever were written are those descriptive of this brother and 
sister just before Mary, on some return of insanity, was to leave Charles Lamb. 
' On one occasion Mr. Charles Lloyd met them slowly pacing together a little 
foot-path in Hoxton Fields, both weeping bitterly, and found, on joining them, 
that they were taking their solemn way to the accustomed asylum.' What pathos 
is there not here ? " — New York Times. 

" This life was worth writing, for all records of weakness conquered, of pain 
patiently borne, of success won from difficulty, of cheerfulness in sorrow and 
affliction, make the world better. Mrs. Gilchrist's biography is unaffected and 
simple. She has told the sweet and melancholy story with judicious sympathy, 
showing always the light shining through darkness. " — Philadelphia Press. 

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jFamous 0Eomen Series. 


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"■ Rachel, hy Nina H. Kennard, is an interesting sketch of the famous 
woman whose passion and genius won for her an almost unrivalled fame as 
an actress. The story of Rachel's career is of the most brilliant success in 
art and of the most pathetic failure in character. Her faults, many and 
grievous, are overlooked in this volume, and the better aspects of her nature 
and history are recorded." — Hartford Courant. 

"The book is well planned, has been carefully constructed, and is 
pleasantly written." — The Critic. 

"The life of Mile. ;^lisa Rachel Felix has never been adequately told, 
and the appearance of her biography in the ' Famous Women Series ' of 
Messrs. Roberts Brothers will be welcomed. . . . Yet we must be gladthe 
book is written, and welcome it to a place among the minor biographies ; 
and because there is nothing else so good, the volume is indispensable to 
library and study." — Boston Evening Traveller. 

" Another life of the great actress Rachel has been written. It forms 
part of the ' Famous Women Series,' which that firm is now bringing out, 
and which already includes eleven volumes. Mrs. Kennard deals with her 
subject much more amiably than one or two of the other biographers have 
done. She has none of those vindictive feelings which are so obvious in 
Madame B.'s narrative of the great tragedienne. On the contrary, she 
wants to be fair, and she probably is as fair as the materials which came into 
her possession enabled her to be. The endeavor has been made to show us 
Rachel as she really was, by relying to a great extent upon her letters. . . . 
A good many stories that we are familiar with are repeated, and some are 
contradicted. From first to last, however, the sympathy of the author is 
ardent, whether she recounts the misery of Rachel's childhood, or the splen- 
did altitude to which she climbed when her name echoed through the world 
-^nd the great ones of the earth vied in doing her homage. On this account 
Mrs, Kennard's book is a welcome addition to the pre-existing biographies 
of one of the greatest actresses the world ever saw." — N.Y. Evening 


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One volume. 16mo. Cloth. Price $1.00. 

"It IS no disparagement to the many excellent previous sketches to say that 
*The Countess of Albany,' by Vernon Lee, is decidedly the cleverest of the series 
of biographies of ' Famous Women,' published in this country by Roberts Brothers, 
Boston. In the present instance there is a freer subject, a little farther removed 
from contemporary events, and sufficiently out of the way of prejudice to admit of 
a lucid handling. Moreover, there is a trained hand at the work, and a mind 
not only familiar with and in sympathy with the character under discussion, but 
also at home with the ruling forces of the eighteenth century, which were the forces 
that made the Countess of Albany what she was. The biography is really dual, trac- 
ing the life of Alfieri, for twenty-five years the heart and soul companion of the 
Countess, quite as carefully as it traces that of the fixed subject of the sketch." — 
Philadelphia Times. 

" To be unable altogether to acquiesce in Vernon Lee's portrait of Louise of 
Stolberg does not militate against our sense of the excellence of her work. Her 
pictures of eighteenth-century Italy are definite and brilliant. They are instinct 
with a quality that is akin to magic." — London Academy. 

" In the records of famous women preserved in the interesting series which 
has been devoted to such noble characters as Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Fry, and 
George Eliot, the life of the Countess of Albany holds a unique place. Louise of 
Albany, or Louise R., as she liked to sign herself, possessed a character famed, 
not for domestic virtues, nor even for peculiar wisdom and creative power, but 
rather notorious for an easy-going indifference to conventionality and a worldly 
wisdom and cynicism. Her life, which is a singular exponent of the false ideas 
prevalent upon the subject of love and marriage in the eighteenth century, is told 
by Vernon Lee in a vivid and discriminating manner. The biography is one of 
the most fascinating, if the most sorrowful, of the series." — Boston Journal. 

" She is the first really historical character who has appeared on the literary 
, horizon of this particular series, her predecessors having been limited to purely 
literary women. This brilliant little biography is strongly written. Unlike pre- 
ceding writers — German, French, and English — on the same subject, the author 
does not hastily pass over the details of the Platonic relations that existed between 
the Countess and the celebrated Italian poet ' Alfieri.' In this biography the 
details of that passionate friendship are given with a fidelity to truth, and a knowl- 
edge of its nature, that is based upon the strictest and most conscientious inves- 
tigation, and access to means heretofore unattainable to other biographers. The 
history of this friendship is not only exceedingly interesting, but it presents a 
fascinating psychological study to those who are interested in the metaphysical 
aspect of human nature. The book is almost as much of a biography of ' Alfieri ' 
as it is of the wife of the Pretender, who expected to become the Queen of Eng- 
land." — Hartford Times. 

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jFamous aaaomen ^nits. 


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" Messrs. Roberts Brothers begin a series of Biographies of Famou? 
Women with a life of George Eliot, by Mathilde Blind. The idea of tha 
series is an excellent one, and the reputation of its publishers is a guarantee 
for its adequate execution. This book contains about three hundred pages in 
open type, and not only collects and condenses the main facts that are known 
in regard to the history of George Eliot, but supplies other material from 
personal research. It is agreeably written, and with a good idea of propor 
tion in a memoir of its size. The critical study of its subject's works, which 
is made in the order of their appearance, is particularly well done. In fact, 
good taste and good judgment pervade the memoir throughout." — Saturday 
Evening Gazette. 

" Miss Blind's little book is written with admirable good taste and judg- 
ment, and with notable self-restraint. It does not weary the reader with 
critical discursiveness, nor with attempts to search out high-flown meanings 
and recondite oracles in the plain 'yea' and ' nay ' of life. It is a graceful 
and unpretentious little biography, and tells all that need be told concerning 
one of the greatest writers of the time. It is a deeply interesting if not 
fascinating woman whom Miss Blind presents," says the New York 

" Miss Blind's little biographical study of George Eliot is written with 
sympathy and good taste, and is very welcome. It gives us a graphic if not 
elaborate sketch of the personality and development of the great novelist, is 
particularly full and authentic concerning her earlier years, tells enough o£ 
the leading motives in her work to give the general reader a lucid idea of the 
true drift and purpose of her art, and analyzes carefully her various writings, 
with no attempt at profound criticism or fine writing, but with appreciation, 
insight, and a clear grasp of those underlying psychological principles which 
are so closely interwoven in every production that came from her pen." — 

" The lives of few great writers have attracted rnore curiosity and specula- 
tion than that of George Eliot. Had she only lived earlier in the century 
she might easily have become the centre of a mythos. As it is, many of the 
anecdotes commonly repeated about her are made up largely of fable. It is, 
therefore, well, before it is too late, to reduce the -true story of her career to 
the lowest terms, and this service has been well done by the author of the 
present volume." — Philadelphia Press. 

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One vol. 16mo. Cloth. Price, $1.00. 

" Miss Robinson has written a fascinating biography. . . . Emily Bronte is 
interesting, not because she wrote ' Wuthering Heights,' but because of her 
brave, baffled, human life, so lonely, so full of pain, but with a great hope shining 
beyond all the darkness, and a passionate defiance in bearing more than the 
burdens that were laid upon her. The story of the three sisters is infinitely sad, 
but it is the ennobling sadness that belongs to large natures cramped and striving 
for freedom to heroic, almost desperate, work, with little or no result. The author 
of this intensely interesting, sympathetic, and eloquent biography, is a yoimg lady 
and a poet, to whom a place is given in a recent anthology of living English poets, 
which is supposed to contain only the best poems of the best writers." — .5^^2f«7« 
Daily Advertiser. 

"Miss Robinson had many excellent qualifications for the task she has per- 
formed in this little volume, among which may be named, an enthusiastic interest 
in her subject and a real sympathy with Emily Bronte's sad and heroic life. ' To' 
represent her as slie was,' says Miss Robinson, ' would be her noblest and most 
fitting monument' . . . Emily Bronte here becomes well known to us and, in one 
sense, this should be praise enough for any biography. "— A^^w York Times. 

"The biographer who finds such material before him as the lives and characters 
of the Bronte family need have no anxiety as to the interest of his work. Char- 
acters not only strong but so uniquely strong, genius so supreme, misfortunes so 
overwhelming, set in its scenery so forlornly picturesque, could not fail toattract 
all readers, if told even in the most prosaic language. When we add to this, that 
Miss Robinson has told their story not in prosaic language, but with a hterary 
style exhibiting all the qualities essential to good biography, our readers will 
understand that this life of Emily Bronte is not only as interesting as a novel, but 
a great deal more interesting than most novels. As it presents most vividly a 
general picture of the family, there seems hardly a reason for giving it Emily's name 
alone, except perhaps for the masterly chapters on ' Wuthering Heights,' which 
the reader will find a grateful condensation of the best in that powerful but some- 
what forbidding story! We know of no point in the Bronte history — their genius, 
their surroundinais, their faults, their happiness, their misery, their love and friend- 
ships, their pecuUarities, their power, their gentleness, their patience, their pride, 
— which Miss Robinson has not touched upon with conscientiousness and sym- 
pathy."— 7',%^ Cr/Vz'c'. 

" ' Emily Bronte ' is the second of the ' Famous Women Series,' which Roberts 
Brothers, Boston, propose to publish, and of which ' George Eliot ' was the initial 
volume. Not the least remarkable of a very remarkable family, the personage 
whose life is here written, possesses a peculiar interest to all who are at all famihar 
•with the sad and singular history of herself and her sister Charlotte. That the 
author, Miss A. Marv F. Robinson, has done her work with minute fidelity to 
facts as well as affectionate devotion to the subject of her sketch, is plainly to be 
seen all through the book." — Washingtoti Post. 

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JFamous BEomen Series. 



One volume. 16mo. Cloth. Price $1.00. 

" A memoir of the woman who first in New England took a position of moraH 
and intellectual leadership, by the woman who wrote the Battle Hymn of the 
Republic, is a literary event of no common or transient interest. The Famous 
Women Series will have no worthier subject and no more illustrious biographer. 
Nor will the reader be disappointed, — for the narrative is deeply interesting and 
full of inspiration." — Woman'' s Jourtial. 

"Mrs. Julia Ward Howe's biography of Margaret Fuller, in the Famous 
Women Series of Messrs. Roberts Brothers, is a work which has been looked for 
with curiosity. It will not disappoint expectation. She has made a brilliant and 
an interesting book. Her study of Margaret Fuller's character is thoroughly 
sympathetic ; her relation of her life is done in a graphic and at times a fascinating 
manner. It is the case of one woman of strong individuality depicting the points 
which made another one of the most marked characters of her day. It is always 
agreeable to follow Mrs. Howe in this ; for while we see marks of her own mind 
constantly, there is no inartistic protrusion of her personality. The book is always 
readable, and the relation of the death-scene is thrillingly impressive." — Satur- 
day Gazette. 

"Mrs. Julia Ward Howe has retold the story of Margaret Fuller's life and 
career in a very interesting manner. This remarkable woman was happy in 
having James Freeman Clarke, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and William Henry 
Channing, all of whom had been intimate with her and had felt the spell of her 
extraordinary personal influence, for her biographers. It is needless to say, of 
course, that nothing could be better than these reminiscences in their way." — 
New York World. 

"The selection of Mrs. Howe as the writer of this biography was a happy 
thought on the part of the editor of the series ; for, aside from the natural appre- 
ciation she would have for Margaret Fuller, comes her knowledge of all the 
influences that had their effect on Margaret Fuller's life. She tells the story of 
Margaret Fuller's interesting life from all sources and from her own knowledge, 
not hesitating to use plenty of quotations when she felt that others, or even 
Margaret Fuller herself, had done the work better." — iJ/zjj' Gilder^ in Pkiladel- 
J>hia Press. 

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jFamous W,t^viim Series* 



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" This little volume shows good literary workmanship. It does not weary the 
reader with vague theories ; nor does it give over much expression to the enthu- 
siasm — not to say baseless encomium — for which too many female biographers 
have accustomed us to look. It is a simple and discriminative sketch of one of 
the most clever and lovable of the class at whom Carlyle sneered as ' scribbling 
women.' ... Of Maria Edgeworth, the woman, one cannot easily say too 
much in praise. That home life, so loving, so wise, and so helpful, was beautiful 
to its end. Miss Zimmern has treated it with delicate appreciation. Her book 
is refined in conception and tasteful in execution,— all, in short, the cynic might 
say, that we expect a woman's book to be." — New York Tribune. 

" It was high time that we should possess an adequate biography of this orna- 
ment and general benefactor of her time. And so we hail with uncommon pleas- 
ure the volume just published in the Roberts Brothers' series of Famous Women, 
of which it is the sixth. We have only words of praise for the manner in which 
Miss Zimmern has written her life of Maria Edgewprth. It exhibits sound 
judgment, critical analysis, and clear characterization. . . . The style of the 
volume is pure, limpid, and strong, as we might expect from a well-trained Eng- 
lish writer." — Margaret J. Preston, in the Home Journal, 

" We can heartily recommend this life of Maria Edgeworth, not only because it 
is singularly readable in itself, but because it makes familiar to readers of the 
present age a notable figure in English literary history, with whose lineaments 
we suspect most readers, especially of the present generation, are less familiar 
than they ought to be." — Eclectic. 

" This biography contains several letters and papers by Miss Edgeworth that 
have not before been made public, notably some charming letters written during 
the latter part of her life to Dr. Holland and Mr. and Mrs. Ticknor. The author 
had access to a life of Miss Edgeworth written by her step-mother, as well as to a 
large collection of her private letters, and has therefore been able to bring forward 
many facts in her life which have not been noted by other writers. The book is 
written in a pleasant vein, and is altogether a delightful one to read." — Utica 

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" In the records of famous women there are few more noble examples of 
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Fry presents. Her character was beautifully rounded and complete, and if she 
had not won fame through her public benefactions, she would have been no less 
esteemed and remembered by all who knew her because of her domestic virtues, 
her sweet womanly charms, and the wisdom, purity, and love which marked her 
conduct as wife, mother, and friend. She came of that sound old Quaker stock 
which has bred so many eminent men and women. The time came when her 
home functions could no longer satisfy the yearnings of a heart filled with the 
tenderest pity for all who suffered ; and her work was not far to seek. The prisons 
of England, nay, of all Europe, were in a deplorable condition. In Newgate, 
dirt, disease, starvation, depravity, drunkenness, &c., prevailed. All who sur- 
veyed the situation regarded it as hopeless ; all but Mrs. Fry. She saw here the 
opening she had been awaiting. Into this seething mass she bravely entered, 
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should ask which of all the famous women recorded in this series did the most 
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" Mrs. Pitman has written a very interesting and appreciative sketch of the 
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and probably no laborer in the cause of prison reform ever won a larger share of 
success, and certainly none ever received a larger meed of reverential love. No 
one can read this volume without feelings of admiration for the noble woman who 
devoted her life to befriend sinful and suffering humanity." — Chicago Evening 

" The story of her splendid and successful philanthropy is admirably told by 
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Not every woman can become an Elizabeth Fry, but no one can fail to be im- 
pressed with the thought that no woman, however great her talent and ambition, 
can fail to find opportunity to do a noble work in life vinthout neglecting her own 
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'* So far as it has been published, and it has now reached its ninth volume, the 
Famous Women Series is rather better on the whole than the English Men of 
Letters Series. One had but to recall the names and characteristics of some 
of the women with whom it deals, — literary women, like Maria Edgeworth, 
Margaret Fuller, Mary Lamb, Emily Bronte, George Eliot, and George Sand ; 
women of the world (not to mention the other parties in that well-known Scrip- 
tural firm), like the naughty but fascinating Countess of Albany ; and women of 
philanthropy, of which the only example given here so far is Mrs. Elizabeth 
Fry, — one has but to compare the intellectual qualities of the majority of English 
men of letters to perceive that the former are the most difficult to handle, and 
that a series of which they are the heroines is, if successful, a remarkable col- 
lection of biographies. We thought so as we read Miss Blind's study of George 
Sand, and Vernon Lee's study of the Countess of Albany, and we think so now 
that we have read Mrs. Elizabeth Robins Pennell's study of Mary WoUstone- 
craft, who, with all her faults, was an honor to her sex. She was not so consid- 
ered while she lived, except by those who knew her well, nor for years after her 
death ; but she is so considered now, even by the granddaughters of the good 
ladies who so bitterly condemned her when the century was new. She was 
notable for the sacrifices that she made for her worthless father and her weak, 
inefficient sisters, for her dogged persistence and untiring industry, and for her 
independence and her courage. The soul of goodness was in her, though she 
would be herself and go on her own way ; and if she loved not wisely, according 
to the world's creed, she loved too well for her own happiness, and paid the 
penalty of suffering. What she might have been if she had not met Capt. 
Gilbert Imlay, who was a scoundrel, and William Godwin, who was a philosopher, 
can only be conjectured. She was a force in literature and in the enfranchise- 
ment of her sisterhood, and as such was worthy of the remembrance which she 
will long retain through Mrs. Pennell's able memoir." — R. H. Stoddard, in the 
Mail and Express. 

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" The almost Tiniform exce]]ence of the ' Famous Women ' series is well sus- 
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this little library of biography. Indeed, we are disposed to rank it as the best of 
the lot. The subject is an entertaining one, and Mrs. Miller has done her work 
admirably. Miss Martineau was a remarkable woman, in a century that has not 
been deficient in notable characters. Her native genius, and her perseverance in 
developing it ; her trials and afflictions, and the determination with which she rose 
superior to them; her conscientious adherence to principle, and the important 
place which her writings hold in the political and educational literature of her day, 
— all combine to make the story of her life one of exceptional interest. . . . With 
the exception, possibly, of George Eliot, Harriet Martineau was the greatest of 
English women. She was a poet and a novelist, but not as such did she make 
good her title to distinction. Much more noteworthy were her achievements in 
other lines of thought, not usually essayed by women. She was eminent as a 
political economist, a theologian, a journalist, and a historian. . . . But to attempt 
a mere outline of her life and works is out of the question in our limited space. 
Her biography should be read by all in search of entertainment." — Professor 
Woods in Saturday Mirror. 

"The present volume has already shared the fate of several of the recent biog- 
raphies of the distinguished dead, and has been well advertised by the public con- 
tradiction of more or less important points in the relation by the living friends of the 
dead genius. One of Mrs. Miller's chief concerns in writing this life seems to 
have been to redeem the character of Harriet Martineau from the appearance of 
hardness and unamiability with which her own autobiography impresses the 
reader. . . . Mrs. Miller, however, succeeds in this volume in showing us an alto- 
gether different side to her character, — a home-loving, neighborly, bright-natured, 
tender-hearted, witty, lovable, and altogether womanly woman, as well as the clear 
thinker, the philosophical reasoner, and comprehensive writer whom we already 
knew." — The Index. 

"Already ten volumes in this library are published; namely, George Eliot, 
Emily Bronte, George Sand, Mary Lamb, Margaret Fuller, Maria Edgeworth, 
Elizabeth Fry, The Countess of Albany, Mary WoUstonecraft, and the present 
volume. Surely a galaxy of wit and wealth of no mean order ! Miss M. will 
rank with any of them m womanHness or gifts or grace. At home or abroad, 
in public or private. She was noble and true, and her life stands confessed a suc- 
cess. True, she was literary, but she was a home lover and home builder. She 
never lost the higher aims and ends of life, no matter how flattering her success. 
This whole series ought to be read by the young ladies of to-day. More of such 
biography would prove highly beneficial." — Troy Telegram. 

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" Of all the interesting biographies published in the Famous Women Series, 
Mathilde Blind's life of Mme. Roland is by far the most fascinating. . . . But 
no one can read Mme. Roland's thrilling story, and no one can study the character 
of this noble, heroic woman without feeling certain that it is good for the world to 
have every incident of her life brought again before the public eye. Among the 
famous women who have been enjoying a new birth through this set of short 
biographies, no single one has been worthy of the adjective great until we come 
to Mme. Roland. . . . 

"We see a brilliant intellectual women in Mme. Roland; we see a dutiful 
daughter and devoted wife ; we see a woman going forth bravely to place her neck 
under the guillotine, — a woman who had been known as the ' Soul of the Giron- 
dins ; ' and we see a woman struggling with and not being overcome by an intense 
and passionate love. Has history a more heroic picture to present us with? Is 
there any woman more deserving of the adjective 'great' ? 

" Mathilde Blind has had rich materials from which to draw for Mme. Roland's 
biography. She writes graphically, and describes some of the terrible scenes 
in the French Revolution with great picturesqueness. The writer's sympathy 
with Mme. Roland and her enthusiasm is very contagious ; and we follow her 
record almost breathlessly, and with intense feeling turn over the last few pages 
of this litde volume. No one can doubt that this life was worth the writing, 
and even earnest students of the French Revolution will be glad to refresh their 
memories of Lamartine's ' History of the Girondins,' and again have brought 
vividly before them the terrible tragedy of Mme. Roland's life and death." — 
Boston Evening Transcript. 

" The thrilling story of Madame Roland's genius, nobility, self-sacrifice, and 
death loses nothing in its retelling here. The material has been collected and 
arranged in an unbroken and skilfully narrated sketch, each picturesque or exciting 
incident being brought out into a strong light. The book is one of the best in an 
excellent series." — Christian Union. 

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JULY, 1887. 



Being the tenth volume in the third "No Name Series." i6mo. 
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" A Question of Identity " takes its title from the resemblance of girl twins 
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From Original Documents, most of which are now published 
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When Benjamin Franklin died, in 1790, he left to his grandson, Wm. Temple 
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those who have studied and know men and women, and who feel the charm of 
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'* This new life of Mrs. Wesley will find many readers ; for the strong, true, 
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Women Wage-workers, their Trades and their Lives. By 
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Edited, with Preface and Notes, by William M. Rossettl 
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Contents : Vol. I. Poems, Prose Tales, and Literary Papers. 
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The original poems are rearranged, so far as was practicable and convenient, 
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